This is the biggest mixtape I’ve ever made. I’ve pieced it together with every bit of leftover energy and stolen time as my life has been radically changing during these inescapably hot and humid Michigan summer days. I’ve been in transit, in transition, floating in zero gravity between two planets, my comfortable old past and my hard-won future. I’d been building this sound mood for weeks and I had to call it Off World.
This strange time has me thinking about my fondest fictional memories of adolescence, hours at home and across the galaxy spent wandering through virtual lands, riding the long arc of a grand narrative while taking plenty of time to slow down and soak in the uncanny beauty of it all. So I started making a mixtape that would reflect both the epic nature of my changing circumstances and the liminal experience of waiting while a major life process plays out. Most of all, I wanted it to remind me of that specifically youthful feeling of spending days at a time lost in the beguiling worlds of my favorite RPGs, no responsibilities to tether me to the real world. Yep. Here we go.
When I became a father this month, I decided to honor the moment by making a new mixtape. I’ve made mixes in all sorts of genres for all sorts of moods, but this time I had a new, very specific aim: to capture the feeling of being an exhausted, mildly ecstatic new dad.
To that end, I decided to make my first dad rock mixtape. But I couldn’t start with just any old stereotypical “dad” music. This had to be my vision of dad rock. So don’t expect any Springsteen or Steely Dan. This is another flavor entirely.
It’s the summer of 2016 and I’ve felt more energized than I have in years. In addition to writing more frequently than ever, I’ve rediscovered my passion for mixing and recontextualizing music.
I make mixtapes that I’d want to listen to, sharing music the way I hear it. This one is a night drive for future ghosts.
This is the first time I felt compelled to make a mixtape for people I’ll never know.
Ballroom is dedicated to everyone who lost the fight of their lives when someone tried to silence an entire culture. It’s also a dive through my own personal history with dance music, exploring the deep end of the electronic ocean, the sounds that come out as everyone’s going home.
When you lose a beloved pet, it’s a lonely experience. No one else feels the crushing sense of loss like you do, and no one knows the unique shape of the hole left in your life.
I created this mixtape as an emotional balm. It’s the soundtrack to mourning, chilled softness with a hint of wide-eyed wonder.
So here we are, the moment I feared might arrive: Soundcloud has unceremoniously deleted one of my mixtapes under the grounds that it contains copyrighted content.
Of course it does; it’s a mixtape. We create mixes under the assumption that, since they’re noncommercial and constitute a radical reframing of the original work, they’re perfectly legal to share for free. This is not the case. At least, not if you’re an individual facing the wrath of a company like Sony or Universal. This is a guilty until proven innocent situation, and most people don’t have the time or money to prove that a free mixtape falls under fair use.
Change begs itself.
I needed to do something different here. Too much has happened to remain the same. This will now be a home for mixtapes. I will still write about music that I love, sometimes even in the same fashion as before, but this place will change. I have a large mix backlog that can and will be shared, but I assembled one special for this occasion. Here is the inaugural Optimistic Underground mixtape: