The Art of the Playlist

A bunch of design people wrote about little things that make them happy today, a topic I have visited a time or two on these very pages. In one of them I talked about how much fun I have had making my playlists for my New Year’s Eve parties which I have hosted with my now-wife since 2013. I think the one for 2013 took one long night to put in order from scratch and was 6 hours long. The playlist for 2014 took 3 regular nights to put together and was 9 hours long. Both of those were (largely) products of the music that I had on hand. This year’s playlist was back to a more manageable 7 hours but was comprised almost entirely of music that I was introduced to in the previous year. I basically had the playlist in the back of my mind all year long and spent like 14 hours over two nights finding the music and arranging it for the big night.

What’s most ridiculous about this is that nobody really cares about the playlist; I don’t think the party atmosphere would be dramatically different if I just put on MC Hit List. But it’s so much fun that I can’t not do it. I missed the “mixtape” generation by like, 5 years and I think this is my way of getting that time back. I like to incorporate a really wide variety of music and play little musical jokes throughout. But usually everyone’s usually too busy *socializing* and *enjoying the food* and otherwise *having actual fun* to notice. is available. #justsayin #businesstip

So I thought I’d pull out some of the playlist moments that are always a source of secret pride for me. I listen to a decent range of music and I like to try and find similar sounds across eras.

Playlist_vintage set

All of those songs have a ‘vintage’ feel, but a lot of the songs are recent releases. Plus there is a gradient of genres in there, too.

Probably my favorite trick is to pull together songs with a common theme and play them back to back.


It’s a way for me to get a variety of music in there, give it a “shuffled” feel, but not lose any structure. I need structure.  Sometimes I like to make a chain and see how far I can take it:


You can do the same thing with artists, too …

Playlist_music doctors


… or get a little carried away and do both.


Sinead O’Connor had the best song of 2014 titled “Take Me To Church” IMHO. Nothing against Hozier.


This year I went a bit deeper and instead of playing songs like that back to back, I made a pattern of songs that I did a few variations of throughout the night.


Dangerous by Big Data wins my vote for video of the year. Check it out (probably NSFW).




This year I tried to incorporate more elements from the immediate past for a kind of year in review. So I had short sets for all the concerts I went to (like when Danielle Ate The Sandwich opened for Pomplamoose, above). And I had little “in memoriam” segments where I played artists and bands who had lost members, all introduced by one of Casey Kasem’s incredible bloopers (also probably NSFW).

Playlist_in memoriam

R.I.P. y’all


This year I want to do something more conceptual, so I’m keeping track of the big events in each month so I can allude to them in song. For example, maybe I’ll play Steely Dan’s Change of the Guard to represent the Republicans taking the Senate.

Yes, I’m thinking of this year’s playlist already. I’m a nerd.

Step 1: squat on Step 3: profit

If there are any mixtape ninjas out there, share your moves in the comments or on my facebook page.


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