The construction of the Ultimate Mix Tape is perhaps the loftiest goal and highest challenge for any music lover. No surprise, then, that I’ve delayed undertaking the endeavor for so many years. As with any creative pursuit, the best results flow freely during times of sudden inspiration, and at long last, that inspiration has come. For the past couple of days, I have gradually assembled a playlist of songs that have impacted my life in ways I can scarcely overstate. During high school and two collegiate tenures, long drives down endless roads, moments of triumph and times of trouble, this music has on numerous occasions saved my day—and maybe even my life.
I gave myself a few ground rules as the exercise commenced. The finished collection had to fit on two CD’s, and no artist or album could be represented more than once. Thematically, I decided not to include some genres for the sake of coherence, as the bulk of my favorites are concentrated in the categories of rock, alternative, and electronic music from the last twenty years. My apologies to Marty Robbins, Busta Rhymes, and Beethoven, but it was for the best. Another difficult choice I made was to limit my selections to those produced during the last two decades. As much as I love Floyd and Zeppelin, I feel a deeper connection with the music made during my lifetime, and I dare say most of us tend to feel the same.
Beyond that, I simply chose the songs that have resonated most powerfully with me over the years, and I worked diligently to order them very specifically. Music speaks to the full range of human experience, and I sought to capture its true voice. Each artist on my list is beloved to me, but I am compelled to mention six in particular who are foremost in my mind.
- Plaid — Simply put, Plaid is my number one group and have put out some of the most beautiful electronic albums of all time, with Rest Proof Clockwork ranking as my favorite in the genre. But not far behind are Double Figure and Parts in the Post. Plaid manage to convey an astounding depth of emotion balanced with an inherent optimism and a teaspoon of humor. They seem remarkably in tune with this crazy adventure we call life.
- Alice In Chains — The Layne Staley era was the best thing ever to happen to rock music, in my opinion. This band had it all: heartfelt lyrics, amazing technical skill, and unbridled originality. Their harmonizing in particular is spine-tingling, and they managed to spread their talent fairly evenly over their discography. I am hard pressed indeed to pick a favorite from Jar of Flies, Dirt, and Tripod.
- Soundgarden — The first time I heard Down on the Upside, I’m pretty sure my life changed forever. I still consider it the best rock album in history, and for that alone this band deserves special mention. Their level of technical skill is off the charts—not much more needs to be said. Just listen and savor.
- Orbital — The Hartnoll brothers are responsible for my realization many years ago that electronic music is not only legitimate but transcendent. Upon hearing The Brown Album in its entirety, my musical tastes were rebooted. For a long time, Orbital was my favorite artist, and even now are second only to Plaid in their genre. Other standout works from them include Snivilisation and In Sides.
- Battles — I lovingly refer to Battles as “the ones who saved music.” Either music had lost its power to thrill, or I was just becoming too jaded to appreciate it in recent years. So it seemed until Battles came along and rocked not only my world, but my face, with their now legendary album Mirrored. Fortunately I have been able to experience the power and fury of Battles in person as well. May they continue to lead the way.
- Guitar Vader — In an alternate universe where things make sense, Miki and Ujuan would be more famous than anyone or anything else from Japan, Pokemon included. With an astonishing stylistic range, Guitar Vader have produced a handful of albums that are quirky, fun-loving, and always enjoyable. Perhaps it’s heresy to compare anyone to the Beatles, but this group seems to be their worthy spiritual successor to the East.
So there you have it. I’ve said my piece, and all that remains is the listening. I sincerely hope you enjoy.
Brademixx Disc 1
- “Novacane” — Beck — Odelay
- “Sweet” — 311 — 311
- “Forever” — Orbital — Snivilisation
- “Get Born Again” — Alice In Chains — Music Bank
- “Get Your Snack On” — Amon Tobin — Supermodified
- “Captain Bligh” — Filter — Title of Record
- “Crystalline Green” — Goldfrapp — Black Cherry
- “The Distance” — Cake — Fashion Nugget
- “Race: In” — Battles — Mirrored
- “Let My Fish Loose” — Aphex Twin — 26 Mixes for Cash
- “Glass of Water” — Bunky — Born to Be a Motorcycle
- “1969″ — Boards of Canada — Geogaddi
- “Leave Me Alone” — Guitar Vader — Dawn
- “We Have Explosive” — The Future Sound of London — Dead Cities
- “People of the Sun” — Rage Against the Machine — Evil Empire
- “21st Century Poem” — Leftfield — Leftism
- “Home” — Smashing Pumpkins — Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music
Brademixx Disc 2
- “The Cerobi Steppe” — Hitoshi Sakimoto — Final Fantasy XII: Original Soundtrack
- “Gel Lab” — Plaid — Rest Proof Clockwork
- “Maquiladora” — Radiohead — Lost Treasures 1993-1997
- “Can’t Cry These Tears” — Garbage — Beautiful Garbage
- “Eutow” — Autechre — Tri Repetae ++
- “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” — U2 — Batman Forever: Music from the Motion Picture
- “Humming the Bassline” — Hideki Naganuma — Jet Set Radio: Original Soundtrack
- “I Feel Cream” — Peaches — I Feel Cream
- “Operatique” — CoLD SToRAGE — Wipeout
- “Broadcast Emotion” — Helmet — Aftertaste
- “C Note” — Photek — Wipeout Pure: The Official Soundtrack
- “Who’ll Be the Next In Line” — Queens of the Stone Age — Stone Age Complication
- “For Love” — Lush — Spooky
- “Away” — Toadies — Rubberneck
- “4 Dead Monks (Original Demo)” — Red Snapper — We Are Reasonable People
- “Xpander (Edit)” — Sasha — Wipeout 3
- “Never the Machine Forever” — Soundgarden — Down on the Upside
- “4:14″ — Global Communication — 76:14
- “We’re In This Together” — Nine Inch Nails — The Fragile