The Top 10 Mixtapes of 2016 (and the other 17 ranked)

The mixtape economy looms, cap'n.

At the beginning of 2016 I had 15 mixtapes up on Mixcloud. Today there are 40. (Not including Star Time episodes; if you count those there are 47.) The reason for the increase in production last year, what I'm telling my backers anyway, was because I knew Song Of The Day would be ceasing operations in March 2017. I wanted to get mixtape production at a serviceable clip because they were going to become the main unit of music consumption on this blog. Now that date hovers ever closer and I'm not sure how I'm going to keep it up -- I don't know whether 25 new mixes are a reasonable expectation. But the process got easier even as it got a little more creative, so I'm hopeful. This replaces the role of stamp collecting and duck painting for senior citizens in the new way of thinking.

So by way of review I thought I'd put the ten most popular of my 2016 mixtapes up in one spot. They include one of the two I literally made during the last week of 2015, so most if not all of their listens were presumably done in '16. For the sake of history I've encapsulated what made these pieces so goddamn enthralling.

10. Compass Syndrome (December 2015) -- This is one of two mixes that focused on music from outside America, both of which I was happy to see met with some favor. Compass Syndrome concentrated heavily on the Middle East and India. Ananda Shankhar's "Renunciation," the second song, has become one of my favorite instrumentals since I put it up here.

9. Najbaraj (July) -- This is the other world music tape, coming directly from my interaction with a brilliant music site called which very logically presents world music according to location, era, and whether the track is crazy as a bag of snakes. It started more or less traditionally, then got more sinister towards the end. Brooks said the track by Masaaki Ohmura sounded like the soundtrack to a softcore porn flick. Cap thereby feathered.

8. The Art of Giving Up (December 2016) -- It wasn't a matter of if I'd do an "outsider" music mix, but when. It did surprisingly well. There was a rough division of topics on this mix, but I didn't mention them in the original write-up because they were, well, really rough. But for the record it was: 1. Life, 2. Love/Sex, 3. God, and 4. Rock/Death. See if it works for you. I kind of cramped up. (Fun fact: The cover comes from a Danish hardware website which I found by Googling "bad website design." Looks kind of like the cover of Some Girls, don't it? A little?)

7. Traps & Snares (November) -- This sprung from the opening track, a drum solo from a hyper-talented Norwegian that I wanted to use as an introduction. I then I had the idea to do a mix focusing on drums and percussion, featuring some of my favorite mainstream drum parts mingled with more classical compositions. This is where Led Zeppelin and The Who rubbed up against people like Stan Freberg, Moondog, and a man actually named Harrison Birtwistle.

6. Disco Doubt (January) -- The first tape of 2016 was a significant leap forward, but I didn't tell you. I'd always wanted to do a disco mix but I also wanted to tweak the boundaries of mixtape aesthetics a little and make it semi-comic. So this mixtape had a few firsts: The first mash-up of a disco track and a contentious school board council meeting, the appropriation of a theme from a kid's Burger King commercial, the first time my actual voice ever appeared on a mixtape, and the first guest-star appearance in the form of the lovely Jennifer Parker. So this was kind of the spark plug for my search for narrative in the mixtape format. Three of the top five mixes had similar intent. (Fun fact: The cover image came from a Mexican wedding reception.)

5. Veritas Animus (March) -- I could say a lot about Mixtape #20. I haven't said everything yet. I can tell you that it was different from every other mixtape in that it was narrative-driven (literally all the other mixtapes were built on the song selections). I can tell you I envisioned it more like a movie. I can tell you it took a lot of time to unfold. I can tell you it's more emotional than the others. I can tell you it's personal but not strictly autobiographical. I can tell you that you can probably learn a lot about me if you felt like giving Veritas Animus your time. Finally I can tell you it's my personal favorite. Let me think. Maybe I'll tell you all those things later. (Fun fact: The cover is a shot of a pattern on my living room couch, heavily colorized.)

4. The Hidden '70s, Vol. 3 (1977-79) (September) -- The Hidden '70s series wasn't quite the smash hit The Hidden '60s was, collectively speaking, but its two biggest entries were gigantic. If I can say that. Vol. 3 covered the last third of the decade, and featured my daughter Lucie for the very first time, even though I'm still kicking myself for recording her poorly.

3. Emergency Provisional Mix, Nov. 2016 -- Done in a fever a couple of days after the Presidential election. I'm not entirely sure what my message was. I'm still not. But I was pissed off and wanted to do something that sounded pissed off. Something about it must have clicked (although my wife's tweeting about it definitely helped). The best way I could put it is that it was a combination of unformed fear, anger and desolation, ending in a tentative note of semi-caution from Leonard Cohen, who'd died hours before this went up.

2. The Hidden '70s: The Taking of Roger (September) -- Vertias Animus might be my favorite, but the top two mixtapes are the ones I'm proudest of because they were full-scale collaborations. The Taking of Roger was done with the kind participation of Diane Karagienakos and Stanbery "Stanley" Foster III. I gave them an actual script which they added their own stuff to. We recorded all our parts separately in three cities: me in Seattle, Stanbery in Olympia and Diane in... was it Las Vegas, Diane? I'm not sure where Diane was. But we had our script meeting while she was in Colorado. The whole thing tied together some of the oddest near-hits of the 1970's. I was so, so happy about how this came out, and how brilliantly Diane and Stanbery nailed their roles.

1. Sincerely Yours, Sunbrite (June) -- The first inspiration was simply to do a parallel-universe version of the Nuggets box set series from Rhino, with some relatively obscure entries in under the "psychedelic" umbrella from the '60s and '70s (plus one track from the '80s and one from 2011). Then it turned into a morality play about pop music marketing, and then I decided I wanted other people to give me their ideas and put the word out on Facebook. I got submissions via email and outside of Molly Maguire's in Seattle during karaoke night. By the time final production had commenced Sincerely Yours, Sunbrite had gotten contributions from 24 different people, including some vital last-minute work from John Manini that put this whole thing over the top. Obviously with all the folks involved it's not surprising that this is the most popular mixtape I've ever done by more than double over the next. This was the most fun thing I did this year, and demonstrated how extraordinarily lucky I am to have creative and generous friends. No comment on whether there will be a sequel involving Gareth Wheatcroft's own, Don Draper-esque journey of self-discovery. But if I do I'll need 75 speaking parts and a llama. Stranger things have happened.

The rest in order of popularity:
11. Moulton
12. Let's Absolve Phil
13. 2nd Place Feudalists
14. The Hidden '70s, Vol. 4: Overtime
15. Ubumix I
16. Weekend At Minerva's
17. The Hidden '70s, Vol. 2 (1973-76)
18. Reset Fever
19. She Saw You Pout
20. He Saw You Point
21. The Hidden '70s, Vol. 1 (1970-72)
22. Unavoidably Infiltrated
23. Star Time Preview
24. Cart of Darkness (2015)
25. The Spindle Recruits
26. Illogic & Cosmic
27. Median Frost

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