What’s the best mixtape you’ve ever received?
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

This week’s question comes from web producer Baraka Kaseko:

What’s the best mixtape you’ve ever received?

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With all due respect to former boyfriend G., one of whose mixes once made it impossible for me to listen to Prince’s “When You Were Mine” without feeling absolutely gutted (which, to be fair, is how one should feel when listening to it), but my favorite mixtape was from college boyfriend Ross, given to me a few months after graduation and we had broken up. There was a good mix of old soul and new pop on there (“Hey Ya!” opened side two—it was quite literally a tape!), sad boys (Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” and Bob Dylan’s “Fourth Time Around”), and singer-songwriters who would become favorites (Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s “I Send My Love To You” and “Sinaloan Milk Snake Song” by The Mountain Goats). Ross named the mix “Variations On A Theme.” If he was in love with me, I was ignoring that pretty willfully. One of my favorite entries is the very first track, a recording of the poem “” by W.S. Merwin, which ends, “On the door it says what to do to survive / But we were not born to survive / Only to live.” Please know that the gap between Merwin saying, “Only to live,” and the opening guitar strum of the following song, the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man,” is perfect. It makes Merwin’s recitation sound mythical, like an incantation. What to do to survive? Nothing. But here’s a bunch of music to making living a little easier.

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