Reacquiring my run fitness is going to be difficult business. Of course, I’m only a few days in so this week is just about getting ‘ol Thunder n’ Lightning reacquainted with the whole pavement pounding aspect of running. The cardio will coming later. Right now, it’s just getting out and building up leg strength and durability and, hopefully, loose a bit of this holiday weight. So I’m heading out again this afternoon for a short and sweet 5.25k drill run set to the newest album by Lake Street Dive, ‘Side Pony‘.
First off, what the heck is a “Side Pony”?
Well, the title actually refers to a hair style or an adventuresome, playful young horse, just doing its own thing…kinda like me.
However, in this particular case they’re talking about the hair style and, yeah, this wouldn’t work on me either.
It seems ridiculous to be able to say that Lake Street Dive is a 12-year-old band, but that’s true – technically. It’s members (Rachael Price, Bridget Kearney, Mike Olson and Mike Calabrese) did indeed start occasionally performing together under the Lake Street Dive name in 2004, but the group was no one’s top priority. And it didn’t become that priority until 2011 or so (largely thanks to a viral YouTube video – click HERE), still several years before their Signature Sounds breakout, 2014’s ‘Bad Self Portraits’. 10 years in, and a fully realized Lake Street Dive had finally arrived and announced itself as a force to be reckoned with.
Their new Nonesuch sophomore follow-up, provides both an encore and procedural evolution of the songs that were presented on ‘Bad Self Portraits‘. In fact, this is the better album of the two. It begins with a collection of songs that sound (at least vaguely) as though they could have come from the previous LP before veering off into more uncharted waters, gathering strength all the while.
Those earlier tracks, including the likes of ‘Call Off Your Dogs‘ and ‘Spectacular Failure‘, find the band adeptly grooving in the particular, difficult to categorize niche of neo-soul and jazzy pop that they’ve made their signature, and one initially fears if perhaps there’s been little additional growth. ‘Spectacular Failure‘ even hinges around a “Bobby,” although presumably not ‘Bad Self Portraits’ ‘Bobby Tanqueray‘, given that the former seemed rather suave while this one is a hopeless fool “playing grab-ass in the shower”.
The revelation, however, is in the album’s final third, beginning with title track ‘Side Pony‘. Leading off with a bit of playful xylophone, the disarmingly simple ode to the economical side ponytail oozes a charmingly retro sense of disco-era levity. An irresistibly toe-tapping groove provides bare bones for Price’s silky alto, which has been and will always be this band’s star. The song is followed by a string of infectious gems, from the Fred Schneider-like ebullience in Calabrese’s vocal intro to ‘Hell Yeah‘, to the entirety of ‘Can’t Stop‘, which is easily the funkiest track that Lake Street Dive has ever recorded. It could have accompanied the opening credits of a Pam Grier movie in 1975, set to car chases and leather-clad vixens shooting massively oversized pistols.
Great listen for a hot, sweltering run. Thank god I’m not doing intervals or long distance today, as I’d surely end up as a little melted pile of greasy pink goo on the side of the road somewhere.