Pennyblackmusic Presents: Heist & Idiot Son + The Volunteered & Simon Bromide

Headlining are Heist with support from Idiot Son , The Volunteered and Simon Bromide
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Miscellaneous - The Short Guide to Making the Perfect Compilation CD

  by Jamie Rowland

published: 28 / 8 / 2011




In ‘Gimme Indie Rock’ Jamie Rowland provides a short guide to creating the perfect compilation CD.




Article

There’s nothing I like more than sitting down and getting to work, making a compilation CD for someone. Well, actually there are definitely things I like a lot more than doing that but I do enjoy it nonetheless. Some people will just stick songs onto a playlist willy-nilly and burn that to a CD, giving no thought to composition or flow. This is abhorrent behaviour in my book. A compilation should be considered carefully at every stage and listened through to ensure the right tone carries throughout – especially if you’re making it for someone else. That’s just good manners. If you are one of these mix tape no-hopers, it’s time you took a good look at yourself and said, "Why am I so awful? It’s time to shape up!” But how do you know where to begin? Well, worry not! For I have taken it upon myself to write this short guide to making the perfect compilation CD(You can thank me later)! As with a good book, the way to start is with a ballsy opener; something which grabs your listener’s attention. You have to remember that generally people are pretty lazy and don’t like to branch out from what they know – your objective should be to get the right balance between things you know they’ll like and things you hope they’ll like, and as such broaden their horizons and make them (almost) as great as you are. So back to the opener; I normally go for something pretty upbeat, some soul or R’n'B is usually a pretty safe bet (proper R’n'B, not Akon or whatever ‘The Kids’ call R’n'B). With track two, you want to carry on as you’ve started and keep them on-board; cement their confidence in your musical choices – that way you can sneak some more out-there stuff in later on! Get something punchy in there early on; some rock and roll or a bit of metal if they’re into that. I think the key to a successful compilation is to keep it pretty fluid. You should be able to move between styles, genres and tempos in a way that seems natural; if you have two songs next to each other that clash, it’ll spoil the tone and ruin the overall listening experience. So don’t do it, ya dummy! You might be thinking, “I wasn’t trying to build any ‘tone’ you pretentious idiot, I’m just making a compilation CD”. Well, that’s why your compilation CD sucks, my friend. I’m not suggesting you should try and send a message with your compilation (unless that message is “check how great my taste is; sleep with me?”) What I’m saying is that in the same way bands take time to decide on the album tracklistings, so you should take the time to order your compilation properly. If a song sounds odd in one track position, move it around and see if it will fit in somewhere else. If not, try another track by the same artist, or just save it for your next CD! Because I am so incredibly geeky and anal, I always split any compilation I’m working on into two halves, each one about ten tracks each. The reason for this, apart from the aforementioned anal geekery (no snickering) is that it means you can focus on each half individually as if it was one CD, and make it as varied and interesting as you can all the way through – therefore escaping the common problem of latter-track-faltering, where the last few songs on an album are really just slapped on there to fill up free space and speed the process up. Consider track 11 in the same way you considered track 1; it should grab your listener’s attention all over again and set them up for the second half. You should also make sure you spread your favourite tracks on the CD out so that they are not all bunched up at the very beginning; the chances are your recipient will like these songs the most too and won’t bother listening past them, missing out on anything they might like that features later on. The most important rule of all – and I’m going to be strict on this people, so look out – is that you can never put two songs next to each other by the same artists. Ideally any one artist shouldn’t turn up on one CD but if they have to they should be kept at least 10 tracks apart. What’s the point of making a compilation if you’re just sticking songs by the same people on it? There is no point. You are exactly right. I tend to end my compilations in a two-track combo: the penultimate track should be an absolute stonker – something with a great beat and heavy bass, which will get your intended listener glad they bothered to listen all the way through and force them to nod their head and tap their feet along with the music – hell, maybe they’ll even full-on dance! Now you could just finish it there but I always like to add a more laid-back track on just to wind everything down to a close – something folky and quiet, a nice, delicate love song, or some really chilled out electronica will suit perfectly as a period on the end of your CD (or your ‘Essay in 20 Songs’, as I like to call them). In the interest of demonstration, I’ve put together a compilation tracklisting, which you can see below*. I can’t find any sites that will let me upload it as a whole for you to hear, and not all the songs are available on Spotify but I’ll write the tracklist down here and if you can be bothered you can look the songs up and duplicate it for yourself. If you are the person who does bother to do that though, maybe take a moment to reassess your life? 1. Eddie Floyd – Things Get Better 2. De La Soul – Eye Know 3. Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over the Sea 4. The Bird and The Bee – Polite Dance Song 5. The Isley Brothers – It’s Your Thing 6. Plumtree – Scott Pilgrim 7. Busdriver – Handfuls of Sky 8. Akron/Family – The River 9. 27 – Easy Trigger 10. The B-52′s – Follow Your Bliss 11. Sigur Rós – Glósóli 12. The Knife – Got 2 Let U 13. M Craft – Demons 14. Nightmares on Wax – Mission Venice 15. Guided by Voices – The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory 16. Mew – Introducing Palace Players 17. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – The Rider Song 18. Broken Social Scene – Cause = Time 19. Simian Mobile Disco – Pinball 20. Eels – Manchild Obviously I’m not really that weird about how people make their compilations. It’s just that if you make them any other way they won’t be very good,. You’ll look like an idiot and everyone will hate you. Especially me. *Check how great my taste is - sleep with me?



Visitor Comments:-

469 Posted By: Jon Rogers, London on 15 Sep 2011
Great piece, Jamie. Spot on and an amusing take on making that perfect compilation... They're great to make for friends, family and loved ones and they're great to receive. All memorable in their own special way. I always like to do something a bit left field, eg. I once recorded a tube journey and stuck that on. And one I received from a friend had Motorhead's classic Ace of Spades followed by a German language version of the theme tune to Sesame Street. Genius.



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