The Unlabeled Mix CD

It’s not a buried treasure, placed in a specific spot and lay to rest with a mark on a map for future souls to discover, the unlabeled mix CD is, by design, destined to be an orphaned item, trivial at first glance.

Rummaging through my car I stumbled on a stack of compact discs, some store bought, some burned and proudly labeled, and the rest left completely blank. My attention was locked on those blank mysteries. How long have they been here? When was the last time I burned a mix? Do I take a chance on them and give them a spin?

A Blitzen Trapper song came on and my thoughts immediately went to an NPR interview I heard with the lead singer Eric Earley, which he was prodded to talk about different songs from their first Sub Pop Records album, ‘Furr’. At the time of the interview the album had just come out and the band was gaining recognition for the title track which was about a dream Earley had that he was raised by wolves. Or maybe, he had just imagined what it would have been like? The details were escaping me as the song played.

“And baby don’t follow their lead…” was the opening line from Cartel’s song “Say Anything (Else)” and, like a flood, I was hit with memories of the first time I heard the song and the record it led off, ‘Chroma’. The night before I’d be gone a few weeks visiting family on the opposite coast I “stumbled” upon the newly leaked album from Cartel. I was extremely grateful for the timing, but what captivated me both then and still to this day was Will Pugh’s vocals. Definitely a defining piece of the addictive song and album.

“Swim Until You Can’t See Land” was Frightened Rabbit’s break out hit. I saw them perform in 2009 at SXSW and it was how you might expect it would be. Actually at the time I remember thinking, “Scott Hutchison sounds just like on the record,” “Normally accents disappear when people sing, but his is really thick.” In-between songs, when someone broke a string, he covered the dead time with a lot of cliché small talk, stuff about the weather and something about the city of Austin, stuff that, though not important, made me think a little less of the band’s live show.

This once forgotten item lost in my vehicle now had the ability to awaken the dead. Memories dormant a moment ago now rejoined me unexpectedly. There were even a few songs that played and I sang along with, but I couldn’t place a name to save to my life. They were good songs and ones I had hand selected to sit next to one another, yet now, they weren’t important enough to be remembered. Abandoned songs on an abandoned disc seemed only fitting.

In the middle of questioning myself why I hadn’t labeled this blank mix, I remembered. I didn’t remember things that had happened that day or why I choose the songs I did, but I do remember taking it out of the computer, holding it and thinking, “What should I call this collection?” Not coming up with anything clever on the spot, I decided that I would be able to remember the songs on the disc, thus sealing its orphaned fate.


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