Cassettes are most commonly thought of as a niche medium that catered to a nerdy audience of experimental music enthusiasts and freaks. But recently these little plastic boxes have made a comeback and seem to be on the brink of re-entering the mainstream once and for all. The format owes its recent gentrification in no small part to the world’s foremost hip-selling underground-appropriating corporate machine: Urban Outfitters. In recent years the one-stop indie shop has peddled more vinyl records than most other outlets and started to press their own, and now they’re adding tape to the empire. We’ve perused their shelves and beyond to find nine mainstream and/or major label records that recently saw a cassette release and thus have contributed to the medium’s much-hyped and sometimes exaggerated revival.
The Guardians Of The Galaxy Soundtrack (Hollywood 2014)
The soundtrack for 2014’s highest-grossing movie in the US and Canada was released in every format imaginable in order to reach maximum exposure: CD, vinyl, MP3 and…cassette. The tape makes a cameo in the film when the main character gives his mother a mixtape with the same songs featured on this Record Store Day special edition, including cuts from David Bowie, Marvin Gaye and The Jackson 5. Its release marks the first cassette product from Disney since 2003, which gives some indication of how “back” this format is.
Eminem, The Slim Shady LP (Interscope 2016)
Marshall Mathers’ breakthrough oeuvre has been released dozens of times since its debut in 1999, but not many clocked its latest incarnation: a cassette with a special lenticular cover. Discogs reports that it came out earlier this year, but the only official word came March 4 via Em’s Twitter when he announced that the tape would come “soon.”
Kurt Cobain, Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings (Universal 2015)
Filmmaker Brett Morgen listened to a collection of the Nirvana frontman’s personal tapes while shooting his documentary Montage Of Heck, which came out in 2015. The tapes contained Cobain’s early recordings as well as snippets and drafts of Nirvana songs and a comedy routine. Morgen compiled some of his findings on a record that came out on cassette and other formats last year.
Kanye West, Yeezus (Def Jam 2015)
We can already hear you Ye fuckboys crying, “But Yeezus came out in 2013!” Indeed it did, but the cassette version didn’t arrive for two years after that. Its packaging mimics the artwork on the original release, which is to say that there’s hardly any art to speak of; it’s a clear cassette with a barcode sticker on shrinkwrap.
Justin Bieber, Purpose (Def Jam/School Boy/Raymond Braun 2015)
The one comment on the Discogs entry for the cassette version of Justin Bieber’s latest LP, which was an exclusive deal with Urban Outfitters, pretty much sums it up: “Is this legitimate?”
Skrillex, Recess (Big Beat/OWSLA 2014)
We’re throwing this one in so that you’re aware that Purpose isn’t the only time Skrillex’s works have appeared on tape. But now we’re realizing that we’ve opened Pandora’s box of EDM cassette releases. Who knew?
Green Day, Dookie (Burger/Reprise 2015)
Green Day’s best album was released as a cassette in 1994, when the record first came out, and then fledgling punk label Burger printed a limited cassette run last year. At first blush it seems far-fetched that a small indie label could manage to get the licensing for such a famous LP, but it’s less random when you consider that Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s son put out his own record with Burger last year.
Grimes, Art Angels (4AD 2015)
One could argue that Grimes isn’t mainstream………
………………yeah….ok…..that’s what they want you 2 think….
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Downtown (Macklemore, LLC 2016)
Here, the medium is definitely is the message: everyone’s favorite white country rapper is cashing in on the retro trend with a cassingle. Imagine that you’re driving down a highway in the countryside and with this little baby bumping the car stereo. Bliss.
Published April 08, 2016.