published Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

In Tune: A mix-tape generator for lazy roadtrippers

As you know, tomorrow is Independence Day, and nothing says “Fourth of July” like sitting in traffic for hours to get to a crowded beach where you’ll develop a wicked sunburn and deposit sands in places it was never meant to be.

Well, there’s the drive back, of course, which says it just as well, but I digress.

I can’t offer any grand solutions to holiday traffic congestion or our skin’s love-hate relationship with ultraviolet radiation, but I can suggest at least one remedy to road-trip boredom.

Mix tapes.

Yes, it’s hardly a novel concept, and for most of you, the term is actually a misnomer — unless you’re incredibly old-school and still have a box of cassettes in your car, in which case, kudos to you for living life like it’s 1985. But nothing takes the sting out of a boring drive like a carefully selected set of songs arranged around a theme.

“Who has time to do that,” perhaps some of you are asking, lower lip jutting out in picture-perfect pout.

While you can certainly make a case that using the shuffle function or listening to a genre “station” via your streaming service of choice would serve just as well, I’ve found that a curated playlist helps you feel more engaged in the trip.

But if the process of deliberating over every song selection sounds like too much of a burden, you can rest easy because technology has stepped up yet again to favor the lazy.

Search online for Roadtrip Mixtape, enter your starting and destination cities and click “save mix tape.” Like magic, a horde of Internet elves will sort through Spotify’s entire catalog and craft a playlist matched to the length of your trip and made up of artists who hail from — or are popular in — the cities nearest to your route. After that, all you need to do is visit Spotify (or download the free app for iOS or Android) and press “play.”

For example, my fiancée and I are headed to Mobile, Ala., this weekend, and the service selected 114 songs by artists such as Bessie Smith and Usher (Chattanooga), Nat King Cole and Tommy Shaw (Montgomery, Ala.) and Sonny Phillips (Mobile).

It’s easy peasy, but there’s a caveat. The service is automated and doesn’t take into account genre preference, so prepare for a potentially spastic musical journey with punk one minute and Southern gospel the next. Still, I suppose that’s the cost of relying on Internet elf slave labor.

Then again, if you’re too lazy to make a playlist, I say you’re too lazy to be picky.

Happy Fourth, folks. Safe travels.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree or 423-757-6205.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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