TANGENT What we like: Mix Tape Generator

By Kim Harwell

WHAT IT IS: Music fans -- particularly those cutting-edge enough to know the difference between lo-fi and emo (or even house and techno) -- will groove to the far-ranging coverage of CD and concert reviews, news, interviews and articles on the volunteer-staffed Web site Tiny Mix Tapes ( But even those of us too unhip to tell Franz Ferdinand from Modest Mouse can appreciate the site's automatic mix-tape generator (, which provides a list of songs perfect for any proffered situation, ranging from the universal ("songs to get me walking just a little faster than the 100-pound anorexic cheerleader on the treadmill next to me") to the weirdly specific ("songs I can listen to while licking the inside of my yogurt cup").

WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT: Back in the day, mix tapes -- individual cassette-tape compilations of your favorite songs -- were as prevalent as melisma on a Mariah Carey record. Today, cassettes are nearly as outdated as eight-track tapes (or, for that matter, Mariah Carey), but -- thanks to the popularity of downloadable music tracks and CD burners -- personalized musical medleys are as easy to create as bland, cheesy pop stars (Clay Aiken, I'm looking at you). The hardest part is deciding which songs to include, and the music mavens who compile the quirky set lists for Tiny Mix Tapes do a fine job in determining exactly which tunes would best make up a soundtrack for when "it's 3 am, the house is deathly quiet and you think you can hear someone just outside your open window" or for the gentleman who requested "songs to help me keep thinking it was a good idea to forgive my wife for having an affair, which most of the time I do, but occasionally I want to smash her car windshield with a hammer."

WHY WE LIKE IT: I'll admit it: I haven't been musically current since MTV quit playing videos all those years ago. I have no idea who Grammy darling Kanye West is, and until I scrolled through Tiny Mix Tape's list of the top 25 albums of 2004, I would have thought that The Go! Team was a Saturday morning cartoon rather than a British sextet. (As an aside, I didn't know how out of touch I was until I noticed that I only recognized the names of eight of the 25 bands on the TMT list and only owned one of the albums, Wilco's "A Ghost Is Born.") But thanks to the mix-tape generator's list of archived collections, I know exactly what to download if I ever need a compilation of "obscure songs to out-do the Canadian guy with unusual music taste in the office next to me" or, perhaps more likely in my case, "songs to listen to when you have writer's block and can't think of anything interesting."

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