Fartlek Run (7k)

Would you freakin’ believe it’s snowing outside?  UH-gain!  Yeah, I blame all you schmo’s you defiantly proclaimed that “Spring is finally here!” on your Facebook pages.  See what happens when you use the ‘S’ word?  So, now, my ass is out running in the snow again.  You should all just hang your heads in shame.  Go on.  Do it now.  Feel shame.

Anyway, snow or not I’m keeping with the plan and completing this 7k run around Crystal Beach all set to the 20th Anniversary edition of Breeder’s ‘Last Splash‘  album.

‘Last Splash’ is the second post-Pixies bassist Kim Deal (along with her sister Kelley), released in August of 1993.  It peaked at #33 on Billboard‘s Top 200 album chart and by June of 1994 (the year I graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor’s degree in drinking beer and smoking pot), the album was certified Platinum by the RIAA for shipment in excess of one million units.  In other words, this was the album that catapulted the band into the same classification of super-stardom from whence the Pixies came.

Here the group expanded on the driving, polished sound of the ‘Safari‘ EP, surrounding its (plentiful) moments of brilliance with nearly as many unfinished ideas. When ‘Last Splash‘ is good, it’s great: ‘Cannonball‘  is instantly a catchy collage of bouncy bass, rhythmic stops and starts, and singsong vocals became one of the definitive alt-pop singles of the 90’s. Likewise, the sweetly sexy ‘Divine Hammer‘  and swaggering ‘Saint’  are among the Breeders’ finest moments, and deserved all of the airplay they received.  Similarly, the charming twang of ‘Drivin’ on 9‘, ‘I Just Wanna Get Along‘  spiky punk-pop, and the bittersweet ‘Invisible Man‘  added depth that recalled the eclectic turns the band took on their debut album ‘Pod‘  while maintaining the slick allure of the hits represented here.

The run itself was okay actually, despite the white shit falling from the sky.  I started things off with a 3k tempo push at my 5k “race pace” (just below 5:00 min/km) before rounding the rest of it off with 2 x 200m sprints and 4 x 400m sprints.

Not. Too.  Shabby.

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More Working and Stressing at Home

It’s been a long week and it’s going to be an even longer weekend at this point, but it is what it is I guess, or if you want to take that same sentiment from I’m currently listening to:  “’tis what it ’tis”.  To keep me motivated and not ripping my hair out at the root I currently have the ‘Bashin': The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith‘ album on by, yes, Jimmy Smith.  I guess the album title kind of gave that away.

Jimmy Smith

This is the 1962 studio album by legendary organ-smith Smith, performing with Oliver Nelson’s big band.  Although still a regular Blue Note artist (he would make four more albums for the company within the next year), ‘Bashin‘  was Jimmy’s debut for Verve, a label that he would record extensively for during 1963-1972.

Don’t ask me what the cover photo is all about.

On the first half of the program, Smith is joined by Nelson’s big band including trumpeter Joe Newman and altoist Phil Woods (who have a solo apiece), and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ became Smith’s biggest hit up to that point. The final three numbers on side Two feature Smith’s regular trio with guitarist Quentin Warren and drummer Donald Bailey swinging with soul as usual.  In essence, it’s keeping my brain a-workin’ and my toe a-tappin’ this afternoon in my desperate bid to get shit done.

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Brick Run (5k)

It’s no secret around home that I am one stressed out mofo these days at work.  I typically finish my 8 hour work days now feeling like I’ve gone 10 rounds with Evander Holyfield; way worse than what I do to myself during these workouts.  Today unfortunately was no different, so I’m attempting to deal with it all by capping off my usual Thursday night Masters spin class with this 30 minute (5k) tempo Brick run set to something, well, “out there”, the ‘Mountain Dudes‘  album by the Can Kickers.

Who the fuck are the Can Kickers you ask?  Well, that was the very question I asked my buddy Lance when we first saw them on the agenda for the main stage at the ‘Grassroots Music Festival of Folk & Dance‘  in Shakori Hills, North Carlina years ago (circa 2004).  I remember it being all shitty-rainy out but we staggered down to the festival ground anyway with a bottle of hooch to check them out.  And I’m sure glad we did.

The Can Kickers are an Americana style band based out of New London, Connecticut. The group originally formed in 2000 while the members were attending Connecticut College and this album was their first official progeny released in 2003.  And, hey, how could you not be intrigued with a band for who whom their first track on their first full album is entitled ‘Dingus Day Polka‘, then follow that up with ‘Froggy Went a Courtin‘?  I don’t know if it was the hooch at the time or what, but I sure picked myself up a copy.  Of course, I haven’t listened to it since then but this evening I’m rectifying that mistake as I do remember enjoying them.  After all, I did buy the album, right?  Worse comes to worse, it’s perfectly timed to 29 minutes and 20 seconds, so it’s at least going to keep me suitably entertained for the whole run.

Trying to describe their sound is, well, difficult.  It’s kind of a hybrid styles to create some unique form of psychedelic mountain folk hillbilly polka music.  Sure you may laugh now but, rest assured, when you actually hear it you will realize that is a very apt description indeed.  It’s the kind of music you can just easily picture it being played by guys sitting around a tire fire and passing around a mason jar.

The really cool thing is that all the ditties clock in around 2 minutes or less with few exceptions which means they all helped me hold a pretty spirited pace on the treadmill.  What more can I ask for?  I think the stomping good ‘Elzic’s Farewell/Salley Goodin‘  was my favorite, particularly the way the tempo kept up a steadily rising pace  aaaand then back down again making for a decent little push on my run.  I will definitely be pulling this album out again for future runs.

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Working and Stressing at Home

Question:  How do you ever pass up anything that features performers like Joan Baez, Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, the Avett Brothers, Lake Street Dive, Conor Oberst, the Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Jack White, Keb Mo, and Rhiannon Gibbons amongst a whole host of others?  All on the same album no less.

Answer:  You don’t.  Period.

As an engagement present a little while ago, a buddy gave us this amazing three-record collection, ‘Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis”‘  and it’s the perfect thing for keeping the stress levels at a minimum this afternoon, let me tell you.

What this exactly, is the concert inspired by and featuring performers from the Coen Brother’s soundtrack to the movie ‘Inside Llewyn Davis‘ which is set in the 1960’s Greenwich Village folk music scene and loosely based on the memoirs of Dave Van Ronk.  In a few words, it’s the “fucking shit”.  And I mean that in the best possible way, of course.  Like the original soundtrack, this concert was largely due to the efforts of T-Bone Burnett to help publicize the movie; this album was released a year later (2013).

Recorded at New York City’s Town Hall, this was the biggest real-deal hootenanny to take place in the Big Apple in ages, featuring both old and current heroes of the folk scene.  I could track by track here and give the overall low down but, suffice to say, it’s all amazing…like, all of it.

In it’s totality, it serves as a reminder of a great night for folkies, an instructive listen for hipsters with an interest in the ’60s folk scene, and proof that Joel and Ethan Coen’s cultural influence takes on many remarkable forms.  Do yourself a favor, drop the cash and grab it or, simply get engaged and put it on your wedding register…whatever works for you.  Just get yourself a copy.

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Interval Spin

Following the “Kids Spin” class this evening, I’m spending an hour upstairs kicking my own ass.  Partly as a means of preparing for my first exercise protocol in the Brock “oven” in two weeks and partly because I’m stressed as shit with work and I need a thorough purging to soothe my nerves.  The plan is to practice intervals spinning with a high cadence at approximately 80-90% of my maximum threshold while seated.  Sound like fun?  It’s not.  Believe me.  Anyway, this evenings music is the ‘Complete B-Sides‘  by the Pixies.

The ‘Complete ‘B’ Sides’  is a compilation record featuring the B-sides for six out of seven of their UK singles from the 1980’s and 1990’s and one U.S. single.  The seventh, ‘Letter to Memphis‘, had no B-sides. The tracklist is exactly what you’d get if you burned the singles for ‘Gigantic‘, ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven‘, ‘Here Comes Your Man‘, ‘Velouria‘, ‘Dig for Fire‘, ‘Planet of Sound‘, and ‘Alec Eiffel‘ to CDR, in that exact order, minus the album track that opens each disc.

There’s lots of stuff on this particular B-sides album to get excited about.  There’s the, like, the best under-two-minute songs ever: a live cover of ‘In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)‘ from David Lynch’s ‘Eraserhead’.  The disc moves from ‘Surfer Rosa’-era to ‘Doolittle’ with ‘Manta Ray‘, a classic Pixies head-bobber boasting Mexican-style guitar strumming and quick, two-note drumming.  ‘Weird at My School‘, as Black accurately notes, spotlight the “hyperness” that defined so much of the Pixies’ work.  ‘Dancing the Manta Ray‘, meanwhile, shows the band’s surf-rock tendencies, as does the sublime ‘Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)‘.  ‘Into the White‘ follows with a killer bassline and Kim Deal’s breathy vocals; the perfect balance of tension and release, and one of the real standouts here. The ‘Doolittle’  era concludes with ‘Bailey’s Walk‘, one of the Pixies’ slowest and weirdest songs, featuring Black Francis in fractured and tortured yowls.

The ‘Bossanova‘  B-sides open with drummer David Lovering’s tepid ode to Debbie Gibson, ‘Make Believe‘, followed by Deal’s beautiful cover of Neil Young’s ‘I’ve Been Waiting for You‘.  After ‘The Thing‘ (essentially an outtake from a section of ‘The Happening‘), we’re offered a driving instrumental Frank Black wrote at 15.  And the era’s rounded out by gorgeous cover’s of Neil Young’s ‘Winterlong‘  and ‘Santo‘, another slow, chanty number straight out of a bar scene in El Paso, 1864.

Theme from ‘Narc’‘, the first track from the ‘Trompe le Monde‘  years (not to mention a staple of my spin classes for sprinting intervals), is just that– a cover of the theme song from the “Narc” video game. It’s another adrenaline-pumping instrumental, displaying the raw, interstellar quality that characterized ‘Trompe le Monde’. ‘Build High’ works as a kind of south-of-the-border space-jam, and on the Spanish-sung Graham Gouldman cover, ‘Evil-Hearted You‘ – as with the instrumental version of ‘Letter to Memphis‘, which closes the record – the guitar mimics the lyrics so well you can almost hear the ghost of Black Francis departing…like the essence of my very being being literally sucked out of my soul during the last 5 x 1 minute 90% maximum effort intervals.

Seriously, shoot me already.

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Family Cycle

Here’s something different, I’m helping to co-instructor a 30 minute spinning class aimed at – get this – kids  and parents!

God help me.

So, of course there will be no blood, sweat and tears (hopefully) as would typically be the case in my adult classes.  No, the focus instead is more aimed at having FUN than anything resembling HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) training.   In essence, the “suck factor” was dialed back – waaaaay back – as this was primarily intended to be a “learn to spin” class set to fun, kids-orientated music which, I will totally admit, is a bit out of my own comfort zone.  To do that, I am leading them through “drills” on how to sprint, control their legs, and climb (albeit in limited doses) while playing ever-popular schoolyard game “Tag“.

HRH  and Kelly will even be in the mix this evening for the class and HRH  even helped put together the playlist based on music we’ve listened to recently so – knock on wood – fun will be had by all.

Tonight’s Playlist:

  • Happy – Pharrell Williams
  • Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gee’s
  • Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
  • Ease on Down the Road – Michael Jackson & Diana Ross
  • Shake It Up – the Cars
  • Mama Tooted – Keller Williams
  • Thriller – Michael Jackson
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Drills/Easy Run (5.4k)

It’s been a bust day of early morning meeting today at work and I’m falling behind on other projects and, well, I’m stressed; time to go for a short drill run.  Nothing intense as ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning are a bit wobbly still after yesterdays long 19.6k haul so this 5.4k then makes a nice, round total mileage of 25k for the week (in two days no less) which rates as “none too shabby” in my books.

To keep it light and breezy I’m choosing something equally light and breezy and going with the ‘Born to Get Down‘  album by the Muscle Shoals Horns.

As the Muscle Shoals Horns, trumpet player Harrison Calloway, sax player Ronnie Lee Eades, trombonist Charles Rose, and sax player Harvey Thompson had been playing together since the mid-1960’s. Over that time frame they literally supported thousands of artists.  This makes it all interesting to realize then that this album – released in 1976 on Bang Records – was their first true solo effort.  And talk about a debut …

Produced by Barry Beckett and backed by the cream of Muscle Shoals studio talent, this set was a complete surprise. Who would have expected a horn-based outfit to debut with so much enthusiasm; let alone so many great songs – at least half of the tracks were worth hearing more than once.  With Calloway handling lead vocals on a number of tracks and credited with penning the majority of material, about half of the album was simply terrific and had they avoided the dreaded trap of 70’s disco banality (things like the throwaway ‘Get It Up‘  for example), the rest of the album could have been equally impressive.  As it is, it has a kind of Blacksploitation feel to it until you realize that the band is practically whiter than snow.  Of course, that doesn’t make it any less fun.  Particularly when high-stepping your way through ABC drills along the lake in sunshine and coll, brisk early Spring air.

But enough of fun, it’s time to get back to work and stressin’ the fuck out.  Oh joy.

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