From Aug. 26-30, KEXP celebrates our first ever Mixtape Week. All week we'll be featuring on-air mixes created by our listeners and celebrating the art of the mix – whether it be cassette, CD, or digital playlist. We'll also be sharing stories on our website from writers, KEXP staffers, and more – like this piece below from writer Jasmine Albertson.
As so many of some of my worst ideas are, it seemed harmless enough at the time. “What could go wrong?” I flippantly tell myself. And, hey, it was his idea! The idea of putting together a playlist of all the songs that had reminded him of me during the duration of our relationship. The thing is, we’d been broken up for a while and were attempting to walk the complicated tightrope of friendship while underlying feelings for him still bubbled inside me. So, in retrospect, obviously, this was not going to go well.
Revisiting and, in some cases seeing for the first time, your ex’s state of mind throughout the relationship – both the ups and downs, of which we had a lot – is a masochistic venture. Do you really want to know all the petty thoughts they had about you during a breakup or fight? Or, on the flip side, hear how amazing and wonderful and perfect they thought you were at the beginning of the relationship when they now see you as a flawed individual? Trust me, you do not.
This is actually my third piece on KEXP inspired by him so you could say this is the end to the trilogy. Our Return of the Jedi, if you will. But, as you all know, that story never seems to end. So who knows what will come, but I’m really hoping to wrap this relationship up in a pretty bow so I can move on with my life. Hence why I’m embarrassingly purging my last remnants of him on a major platform.
It was initially, and for a long time, my intention to write this piece for Mixtape Week about the first mixtape ever given to me by my first real boyfriend John. It was a mix that thoroughly changed my overall scope and understanding of music and maybe that would’ve been a better story. But I’ve long lost the CD and when attempting to reach out to the long-ago ex I got a non-response. I don’t blame him, we haven’t spoken in at least a decade and have lived multiple lives since our brief courtship when I was 15.
The idea of even making this playlist, which he titled “my mixtape for her,” a reference to a mutually-loved Jack’s Mannequin song, only even came about because of Mixtape Week (thanks KEXP!). Our attempted friendship included us texting nearly all day, every day (clearly, a healthy way to move on). I was telling him about my initial idea for the piece and somehow we got on a conversation about all the songs that reminded him of me. They were many.
I was flattered and also secretly hoping perhaps this admission meant he might be willing to give it – “us” – another try. So when he postured the idea of putting them all together on a Spotify playlist that would chronologically arc our entire relationship, I enthusiastically empowered him to do so.
The first 19 songs are from the magical moments in the beginning. When everything was shiny and new and the love pouring out of each other was abundant. When he’d frequently call out of work to stay in bed with me and we’d spend our nights up too late, dancing in my room and making love. It was a very short period but one that both of us spent the rest of our relationship romanticizing and fighting to get back.
It kicks off with Father John Misty’s “I Love You, Honeybear” which we deemed “our song.” Perhaps a choice that’s a little too on-the-nose and a good example of how sickly sweet we were. He was the first person who ever made me even think to utter the words “this is the one.” I’ve never really believed in all that “the one” mumbo jumbo but, with him, it felt like a possibility.
Other songs that make up that “perfect period” include “My Kind of Woman” by Mac DeMarco, which he would sing to me whenever I did something particularly cute or appealing, Minus the Bear’s “Let’s Play Guitar In a Five Guitar Band,” Frightened Rabbit’s “Old Old Fashioned,” and, the pièce de résistance of every romantic mixtape since its release in 1999, the Get Up Kids’ “I’ll Catch You.”
That song is where my previous mixtape piece idea and this one converge. While I can’t remember every single song on that initial world-altering mix CD, I do know “I’ll Catch You” definitely was, as it has been on every mix every boy has ever made me. I was considering writing a piece called “Don’t Worry I’ll Catch You: A Lifetime of Continually Dating the Same Emo Boys” instead of this one but I feel like the title says about all I need to say about that.
Things get dicey when we get to the 20th song on the playlist, “Frost on the Front Steps” by Armor For Sleep. Yes, this playlist was made in 2019, not 2003. Being the music-focused person I am, the lack of growth in his music taste was a constant headache to me. Speaking of, that Joyce Manor song is on there as well. We’ve also got Piebald’s “Long Nights” and “All Hail the Heartbreaker” by The Spill Canvas, which previous exes have also bitterly sent me after breakups. We’re clearly in the portion of our first breakup, only three months in.
It’s a pattern for me. I don’t know why but nearly every relationship I’ve been in, I break up with them after three months. I get itchy. I start seeing their flaws. I start trying to plan out the rest of our lives together and only see how we don’t work. Most of the time I’ll get back together with them after that first break up but there’s always an initial, almost trial, breakup.
I have a hard time gauging the actual arc of our reunion and the final break up through the songs that come after. Most of them deal with waiting and longing and desire. The Beatles’ “I Want You,” The Cure's "Pictures of You," Death Cab for Cutie’s “Expo ‘86” (a foundational band for us and the first way he subtly showed up in my writing) all make the cut. Absolutely no songs about being happy in love. Just desire for what we used to have and what had been.
Ólafur Arnalds’ “re:member” is a significant one. We had bought tickets to see him before breaking up but he paid me to buy my ticket back. I still went, on behalf of KEXP. In the piece I wrote, which was supposed to just be a review of the show but somehow turned into a story about love and loss, I made it seem like the show was an opportunity to move on because it tied the article up better. But, really, it just reconnected us. For a very brief two weeks, we were back in each other’s arms.
The reasons why it ended, yet again, after two weeks are complicated and unimportant but since then it’s been a back and forth of talking and not talking. Unexpectedly running into each other at the Mac DeMarco show in May spurred another bout of attempted friendship after not speaking for months. This time he was adamant that we be nothing more than friends. Which only made me want him even more.
Then, the mixtape. Listening to it took me on an emotional rollercoaster of confusion. The first half only fueled my desire to get back together. To feel that level of love again. If we felt it then, maybe we could feel it again?!
But by the end I was angry. “This was a terrible idea,” I texted him. “What good does it do me to know all this or to revel in memories of a relationship you don’t plan on getting back into? This isn’t how things are done. We shouldn’t even be talking. How do we move on when we’re still making mixtapes for each other??”
That was a month ago to the day. At the time, I put in my calendar for today “reach out to tim if you’re still feeling something for him.” Thankfully, I can confidently say that I’m not. I only got to this point about a week ago, but still, I’m here and I’m relieved.
The closing songs include “Walk in the Park” by Beach House, another favorite of ours. “In a matter of time / It would slip from my mind / In and out of my life / You would slip from my mind,” Victoria Legrand croons.
Charlie Fink declares “This is the last song that I write while still in love with you / This is the last song that I write while you're even on my mind / 'cause it's time to leave those feelings behind” on the penultimate track by Noah and the Whale, “Blue Skies.”
The final track, John K. Samson’s “Virtute at Rest,” drives home the point with a simple and straightforward message: “Let it rest and be done.” And with this piece, I think I finally am.
From Aug. 26-30, KEXP celebrates our first ever Mixtape Week. All week we'll be featuring on-air mixes created by our listeners and celebrating the art of the mix – whether it be cassette, CD, or digital playlist. We'll also be sharing stories on our website from writers, KEXP staffers, and more ...
Martin Douglas tells a story about his friend and makes a mix.
The New York Times best-selling author reflects on the beauty of making mixes as we celebrate KEXP's first ever Mixtape Week.