Let me tell you about Year End Mixes.
Music gets me. Deeply. I used my graduation presents to buy an iPod back in 2005 and dumped all my music library on it. I took the thing everywhere. Starting out, I listened to a lot of soundtracks, Enya and video game music.
In 2006 I found some very good reasons to mope. I made new friends—friends who listened to dusty folk and indie rock—and that became my move and groove. I got into Radiohead and shit. I’d walk around grey winter afternoons whispering “we are accidents / waiting to happen”.
My new friends made Year End mixes. Having read Palahniuk’s unfortunate novel Diary, I was convinced that everything I did was a self portrait. It didn’t help that I was in college. So I made myself a needlessly affected, heavy-handed Year End Mix that described both my favorite songs I’d found that year and my own tortured psyche. I have the playlist in my iTunes still.
In 2007, I went a little crazy. One of my other friends at Wheaton College, a fellow named Stephen, killed himself in Europe. My best friend’s dad died. I tramped around the suburbs late at night wearing camo pants and a red-tied bandana. It was a hard year. My friends and I made year end mixes, burned them to CDs, and we listened to them in obscurity.
2008 was the worst year of my life. I made a year end mix and it all sounded like drowning. I even had some fitting / unsettling album artwork for the metadata from a modeling gig our improv troupe had done with an artist named Jill Frank. My friends and I huddled around our speakers in February and toured everyone’s year end mixes in revery. We were remarkably pretentious.
Since college, I’ve made a mix for every year. Some have been good. Some have been bad. But they’ve always been a way to put the mood and movement of every year into music, since I can’t play any instruments.
2014 was a year of intense change. I traveled back to see old friends and students in Laos and Thailand. I negotiated contracts with education ministers in Western Mongolia and moved back stateside to work an office job in Los Angeles. I started having some hard conversations with significant people.
The rules of a year end mix are breakable. My friends and I would pick 15 songs by different artists (no repeats). I limited myself to any number of songs no longer than 80 minutes (the length of your standard CDR). Put them in order of name. Or by artist. Or put them in chronological order by when you encountered each one. The rules got a little more fluid as time went on.
My 2014 Year End Mix is mostly about Los Angeles and how much I hated living there. But it’s also about the moments I found, divorced from friends and community and sweating out dark evenings, that made life bearable. It’s only 11 songs long, and two of them are the same song, sung differently by Hiss Golden Messenger. There’s also no rule for the lineup aside from good mix order.
Apologies for any potential wonky formatting (I'm still new to this). Take a listen and get in my headspace. Tell me what your 2014 was like in the comments. If you sign up for my mailing list, I’ll send you some updates on my novel as it takes shape.