In the ’90s, girls and boys raced to boom boxes to listen to the latest mix tape made by their significant others.
But in a generation where iPods have replaced CDs and cassette tapes, the personalized compilations in which teenagers poured their souls have turned into mechanical playlists created by the genius button in iTunes.
Bridging the gap between past and present, Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody and keyboardist Tom Simpson return to the studio to record a piece of their hearts without completely abandoning the advantages of modern technology.
Released Tuesday, the 22nd album in the Late Night Tales series mixes together some of the duo’s favorite music, which gives audiophiles a taste of Snow Patrol’s low-key sound without actually having to completely invest in the band.
As a collection of compilations, the series shines a light into the musical world of a myriad of DJs, recording artists and bands after dark.
Artists are invited to create their own tracklist, specially selected and mixed for the series, as well as record their own rendition of a favorite song.
Reflecting the experienced musical tastes of two former club DJs, Late Night Tales: Snow Patrol is a throwback to the band’s many inspirations. Lightbody and Simpson take you on a journey through their music — a land where trance-inducing voices replace soothing ocean waves and rainstorms are substituted by celestial beats.
Following the theme of after-hour madness, the 19-track album will tickle your ears with after-party mood music that is meant to calm the nerves yet retain an appropriate level of energy for that long car ride home.
Although the selection of songs might individually pique interest — many with vibrant beats fused with electronic sound upgrades — together, it only serves to confuse the listener.
The album begins strong with Captain Beefheart’s “Observatory Crest,” a narrative song about driving to a special place after a concert, but soon falters — drastically.
Beefheart’s avant-garde sound is followed by A Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight,” a rap that breaks the flow of the entire album in merely the second track.
Despite the attempt to keep energy high, the atypical lineup of songs consists of slow melodies that lull the listener to sleep. A string of songs with slow beats is often broken up by a song with somewhat faster slow beats. And when the compilation starts to pick up speed, the momentum is abruptly halted by random insertions.
Transitions throughout are well-mixed but lack a level of sophistication and consistency necessary for a rehash of old music.
The first 15 seconds and the last 30 seconds of most songs — at least for the earlier tracks — are dedicated to mixing in a smooth transition, where one song fades out, and the other fades in.
After the first few tracks, however, the monotony sets in and the supposed late-night illumination reveals only the techniques of undeveloped DJs still learning how to blend their own creative energy into songs that aren’t theirs.
Lightbody and Simpson take the tact of using the last line and beats of the previous song, repeating it and then matching it up with the next song. On the same transition, they repeat the same technique backwards, creating a cacophony that sounds more like an orgy of notes than a smooth segue.
By the end of the album, transitions are barely audible, making rough song selections even more noticeable.
The transition between “That’s Us/Wild Combination” and “Eanie Meany,” however, marries celestial voices with psychedelic beats into a perfect harmony, making it hard notice where one song ends and the other begins.
For true Snow Patrol fans, the band covers Inxs’ ’80s hit “New Sensation,” putting its own acoustic spin on the pop song. A slowdown of the beats and echo effects throughout the chorus infuses Snow Patrol’s distinctly alternative sound.
But overall, Late Night Tales: Snow Patrol fails to reach the band’s usually infectious energy, and instead leaves listeners underwhelmed by the musicians and sound they thought they knew.