The mixtape was a major art form of the80s and 90s -- you'd make one for your best friends and longtime crushes, painstakingly choosing every song and then putting them in the right order. Don't even get me started on how much effort went into naming each side and decorating the case. Well, all good art movements deserve a tribute book, and now the mixtape has one: Cassette From My Ex (St. Martin's, $23) is a collection of stories and soundtracks of lost loves edited by Jason Bitner of FOUND Magazine fame.
In its pages you'll find not only heartfelt essays by rock writers Jancee Dunn, Rob Sheffield and The Magnetic Fields' Claudia Gonson, but also the soundtracks that go along with their stories -- the track lists for the mix tapes that inspired each tale.
Hear about Marie Hansen's "Punk and Not Punk" tape, the product of her 8th grade relationship with a decidedly Not Punk boy. Read the history of Annie Tomlin's "Summer Pick-Up," made for her by Ben, whose "lips looked as though they were stained with Kool-Aid." And close with Sarah Grace McCandless' heart-wrenching mix from David, the boy who left for college and said his final adieu with "The Tape I Finally Made," which includes The Cure, Depeche Mode and Bon Jovi's "Never Say Goodbye." Way to make a girl weep, David.
You might call your mixtape a "playlist" today, but never forget that every time you put a bunch of songs together and give that music to someone else, you're continuing a long tradition of emo art.
PS-Okay, full disclosure: I have a mixtape story, and it embarrassingly involves Sarah McLaughlin and Hootie and the Blowfish. It's here. (Choose your track lists wisely, everyone.)