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The Cassette Makes a Comeback

October 22, 2014

Thanks, Star-lord!

Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1The vinyl record is beloved by music collectors and audiophiles, who claim the format offers a richer, deeper, and more authentic sound. Many rock and electronic acts still release their recordings on vinyl – Billboard maintains a vinyl-only sales chart, and it was recently announced that hip clothing and housewares store Urban Outfitters is the world’s #1 seller of records. (Bestselling wax of 2013: Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.)

Eight-tracks also have their adherents, but that’s mostly out of nostalgia for the ‘60s and ‘70s. Only one company in the U.S. still makes them, for small-run and novelty pressings, and they handled the first major eight-track release in decades in 2009. Era-appropriate rock band Cheap Trick released a small quantity of its album The Latest on the format as a publicity stunt.

There is little to no love, however, for cassettes. The format took off because of its compact nature, and because tape decks were common in car stereos. It was also the first music format where consumers would buy blank and record what they wanted – their own voice, friends’ albums, or “mix tapes”—carefully curated collections of songs to reflect a mood, a year, or to give as an emotionally resonant gift to that special someone.

The mix tape had fallen out of cultural prevalence until the release of last summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. A mix tape featured prominently in the film, as a collection of classic rock and pop songs his mother made him is about the only thing Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star-lord (Chris Pratt) has left from Earth. The movie’s soundtrack is those songs, and it was released, almost in its entirety as an album called Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix Vol. 1. On November 17, it’s going to be released on actual cassette. It will be the first major cassette release in more than 15 years.

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