Dan Lipton longs for the good ole days. Looking back, there’s a particular beauty in simpler things ─ like hopping in the family’s station wagon with a collection of your favorite cassette tapes for a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive. Out of Washington, DC, the folk singer-songwriter revisits a bygone era “when cars and driving were an analog experience, CD changers were a novelty, and mix tapes were a soundtrack for your night out,” Lipton says of his new song.
“Mix Tapes” smolders with the warming crackle of nostalgia. Immersed in folk-rock tradition, Lipton stages a rather vibrant scene. “What was our life before the working wage / Did we put everything aside for all of that,” he observes. “Packed up the car, it’s no Mercedes Benz / And started West out toward the mountains.”
“Mix tapes and heart beats, this car’s a time machine / Pull that lap belt tight, there ain’t no digital stream,” he continues to unfurl the delight he once felt. “Drive though the night / Feels like we’re seventeen again.”
There’s no shame in longing for youth, and in fact, it’s a journey we all must undergo, sooner or later. When a melancholy springs from the hook, you begin to understand Lipton’s heart-torn wistfulness. “Give it up, we’re getting older / Been moving sideways, never forward / The engine turns toward the horizon tonight,” he sings, releasing a heavy sigh.
Lipton wrote “Mix Tapes” soon “after we inherited a ’69 Plymouth Barracuda through my father-in-law,” he tells American Songwriter over email. “Even though I wasn’t alive when these machines roamed the highways,” that emotional experience floods his senses all over again, he says.
“Highway lines look like a runway / This car could fly, if we just gave it wings / I’m gonna give it wings tonight,” he sings. Lipton approaches his story with an amber glow, so intoxicating the listener feels the exact weight of his own personal revelations. Time marches relentlessly on, and such songs are his way of stopping for gas before barreling toward the horizon.
Throughout his career, Lipton has released four full-length records as part of an indie-rock band. He emerged as a soloist with 2016’s Breathing In debut. Now, four years later, he returns with Water Rising, a nine-song release tracked in the attic of his home, mirroring an innately plaintive quality. The set drops everywhere this Tuesday (December 1).
Listen to “Mix Tapes” below.