Review: Tapely redesign aims to recreate mixtape magic

Tapely screenshotMost true music aficionados will always have a soft spot for the tradition of the mixtape. As more of our listening migrates onto computers and smartphones, our old tapes and CDs can start to seem like relics from a bygone time. Sure, you could turn to an online playlisting service, and many of them are quite good, but thus far none of those platforms has recaptured quite the same experience of making a mixtape for somebody. Today we took a look at Tapely, which aims to tap into that classic mixtape activity. The site launched in 2012 and was recently redesigned.

Compiling a playlist on Tapely is certainly simpler than it was on a cassette. The unified search feature will simultaneously pull hits from both YouTube and SoundCloud. That means instant access to a much bigger library than most amateur tape-makers would have. You can preview the song within the search tab, which is helpful since, as with many services of this type, YouTube sometimes yields fan-made creations rather than official videos. Once you set the track list, each playlist can have a cover photo and the user can select the colors and fonts for presenting the song titles.

Tapely create screenshotWhile the creation side might trigger feelings of nostalgia, the sharing aspect is very much of the digital age. Any mixtapes are public and can be browsed by all other listeners. They can also get posted to social media networks for an even bigger audience. Tapely works very well as a discovery engine in this sense. As with any user-generated tagging system, the genre labels are often less than accurate (these kids clearly have no idea what real disco sounds like). But discovery based on the mood and activity was fun and turned up some pleasant listening surprises: a pensive list featuring esteemed soundtrack composers Alexandre Desplat and Austin Wintory was a highlight. A community with good ears and good taste is a must for these services to thrive, and we were impressed by what Tapely had to offer.

Our biggest criticism is that, even with the recent redesign, Tapely is not the prettiest or cleanest presentation of this community playlist concept. The web interface is actually a little clunky; for instance, any YouTube videos pop up awkwardly in the bottom left corner of the screen. The window for creating your mixtapes is also clearly built for function, not form.

That said, the ability to personalize the presentation is a nice throwback to the act of writing out a tracklist and adding a few doodles. We may never have a great replacement for the painstaking joy of making a tape just for the ears of one special person in the digital realm. But assuming that great music should be shared with everyone, Tapely is still a fun way to recreate those days.

Anna Washenko