Run This Town: Maintaining Sanity Through 4/28/13

A week ago, I did something straight up wacky. Frugal little me paid over $100 to register for a half marathon at the end of April. I’m not even a runner. Yes, there was a stint last year when I’d drag myself along for a few miles every couple of days, but never once have I considered myself a runner. So when my friend Hillary and I realized that – for some reason – we both had it in our heads to run 13.1 miles next spring, it was more than a little bold to seal the deal and sign up.

I used to be convinced that I could run sans music and do well just with the sounds around me, but the past few weeks of even the most basic training have taught me otherwise. I cannot imagine how I would have made it to the Lincoln Memorial today without Michael Jackson and Beyonce. I would probably still be toddling around somewhere on the waterfront if I hadn’t danced on my own with Robyn or been reminded by Bruce that I was born to run. And god, don’t get me started on trying to do anything in Yates without my iPod.

I don’t think there’s any specific formula to crafting running playlists – some people like super upbeat stuff, while others go for a consistent tempo so their pace doesn’t get too out of hand. I just know it’s not the method in Runner’s World, which suggested that my mom buy Eminem (yes, she did heed their advice, and no, it did not end well). So with all formula, rhyme, reason, and shame thrown out, here is just a fraction of my personal solution to the running playlist problem, an excerpt from the 200+ song run this town.

The tracks might be somewhat out of order; 8tracks was having some upload problems tonight. Below I’ve added a few comments to songs that might leave some people wondering who in their right mind would run to them.

  • “Love on Top” – Beyoncé
  • “Follow Me” – Muse
  • “Raise Me Up (Mississippi South) – Lana Del Rey – Steady, chill tempo + alluring vocals.
  • “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, feat. Ryan Dalton
  • “Only Girl (in the World)” – Rihanna
  • “Tupthumping” – Chumbawumba
  • “Dum Dum Mast Hai (remix)” – Band Baaja Baraat – A total outsider on this playlist, but it is so upbeat that it hardly matters that I can’t understand the words.
  • “Fade into Darkness” – Avicii
  • “We Found Love” – Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris
  • “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” – Michael Jackson
  • “You Make My Dreams” – Hall & Oates
  • “What More Can I Say” – Jay-Z + DJ Danger Mouse
  • “All These Things That I’ve Done” – The Killers
  • “Buddy Holly” – Weezer
  • “Never Had Nobody Like You” – M. Ward feat. Zooey Deschanel – Simple, steady and cute.
  • “Serpents” – Sharon Van Etten – I might be crazy for putting this on here, but it’s kind of a cathartic listen when combined with running.
  • “Animal” – Ellie Goulding – The last minute of this song is too perfect for the end of a run.
  • “Foxy Lady” – Jimi Hendrix
  • “Get Myself Together” – Robyn
  • “Take Me Out” – Franz Ferdinand
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Sounds that Define 2012

[The following is my final column published for the guide, the lifestyle magazine of The Hoya. The print version of AMPlify runs every other Friday. You can find the originals by searching my name at thehoya.com. Just as a sidenote, I really wish I could have written more than 700 words for this one. Check back for my full best/meh/worst list later in the month.]

To be honest, I’m the biggest flip-flopper I know. I’ve gone back and forth between my views on everything from political issues and people to fashion and food so many times, I could give Mitt Romney a run for his money. Too often I see both sides of an issue. I nod during debates, regardless of whom is speaking, unless I hear something outrageous. But if there’s one part of my life where my opinions run deep, it’s music. With that in mind, I now bring to you the Definite Best and Worst Albums of 2012, according to AMPlify.

DEFINITELY THE BEST

Muse | ‘The 2nd Law’

In many ways, this album isn’t entirely different from Muse’s previous work. Pounding drumbeats, guitar solos, string sections, and raging bass lines accompany Matt Bellamy’s bellow-to-falsetto vocals. The sound is epic in Muse’s traditional style.

Somewhat surprisingly, Muse manages to tastefully incorporate a divisive genre — dubstep — on the entirety ofThe 2nd Law. Whether manifested in the heaviness we think of as true dubstep or in lighter electronic beats, the influence is all over this album and yields a new sound that never bores.

Sharon Van Etten | ‘Tramp’

Sharon Van Etten is not for the faint of heart. Her aching guitar-and-vocal-based music is frequently lumped into the singer-songwriter category, but that designation, reminiscent of tired coffee-shop talent, doesn’t begin to encompass the depth of her music. Van Etten paints not-so-pretty pictures of her past and sets them to subtly complex rhythms and harmonies that result in some of the best word-painting I’ve ever heard. Van Etten isn’t a one-trick pony either; she recently recorded a cover of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Rufus Wainwright that beautifully captures Christmas romance.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis | ‘The Heist’

Admittedly, I am completely unqualified to judge hip-hop and rap, but this album has some of the greatest mass appeal of any album I’ve heard in a long time. With meaningful, thoughtful lyrics and catchy beats and hooks, this album is a clear winner.

DEFINITELY THE MEH

Mumford & Sons | ‘Babel’

If you love ragged vocals tinged with an English accent and accompanied by lots of banjo, you will like the title track of Babel. If you love listening to nothing but the aforementioned music for fifteen songs in a row, you will like this album. But if you, like me, could go for a little more variety in your music, this album is one to skip.

DEFINITELY THE WORST

Maroon 5 | ‘Overexposed’

Unlike Muse, Maroon 5 doesn’t quite have a grasp on how to tastefully update its sound, as proven by all the songs on the aptly named Overexposed. If you like Maroon 5 best for the soulful, daring songs on their debut album, Songs about Jane, you — like me — will be completely and utterly disappointed by this album.Overexposed could also have been named Overproduced. Cue the bells as we mourn the self-destruction Maroon 5 has put their music through.

Ellie Goulding | ‘Halcyon’

I’ve already written an earlier column detailing my disappointment with Ellie Goulding’s sophomore slump. In case you missed out, this album is to be avoided at all costs unless you want to hear a girly breakup album that is somehow supposed to be danceable.

Taylor Swift | ‘Red’

Let me start by saying that I am a big T-Swift fan and not ashamed of the number of times I’ve listened to Speak Now and Fearless. Do you remember when Taylor Swift was still considered a country artist? Neither does she, as evidenced by the majority of the songs on Red. While T-Swift has always toed the country-pop line in the past, on Red, she has full-on crossed to pop, and it hasn’t served her well. Her efforts to keep up with musical trends like electronica and dubstep leaves Red as a collection of cold, genre-less bunch of songs that — as we say in the country — is getting a bit too big for its britches.

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BREAKING: Allie Finally Enters 2012

I think most of us would agree that electronic music is the type of tune-age that’s been gaining the biggest holding this year. It’s a genre that intimidates me. I really don’t know why, but until recently, I was utterly convinced that I was too uncool to like music with so much synth, music I might otherwise classify as “unnatural” or just not worthy of mentioning because I was sick of hearing it at sweaty parties. Thus, I tend to return to my safety blanket of favorite albums, most hailing from circa 2008.

Some anonymous promoter prompted me to decide that it was time to face my fear and listen to some frighteningly electronic music from 2012. About a month or two ago, I finally made the musical foray into this year – The Year of Electronic Music – thanks to an email that included the song “Ritual” by Blood Diamonds. I want to bow at the feet of Blood Diamonds – hell, I want to bow at the feet of the promoter who floods my radio inbox every week. I listen to this song non-stop. I know  n o t h i n g  about this kind of music, except that it is perfect.

* * *

Another recent fix comes from Cherub, with “Doses and Mimosas.” A friend sent me this song during my radio show on Thursday, and even as I was playing Sharon Van Etten on air, I cranked the volume of this track in the studio and had a one-person dance party. I will never be able to decide how I think this compares to “Ritual,” but I will say that it prompted me to find Cherub’s entire discography.

The song starts a bit slow, but it becomes real amazing real fast.

Catching Up – You Gotta Hear This.

It’s been awhile. And sadly, I don’t have nearly as much time as I need in order to write about all the music that deserves to be shared. I’ve sorted through my current faves, though. It’s all off the charts of the ol’ AMPlifiability scale, so brace yourselves for awesomeness.

From cloudfront.net.

1. ZZ Ward. We hosted this up-and-coming bluesy-pop gal at WGTB on Saturday. Many of us were apprehensive because she’s trying to make it mainstream, and that’s not how we really roll at WGTB. ZZ killed it though. The general consensus seems to be that her recorded music is overproduced and artificial and that her live performances are so authentic and rich. I think she’s still trying to figure out exactly what she wants her sound and her image to be, but she’s well on her way to becoming queen of a new kind of pop.

Songs you can’t miss: “Move Like U Stole It” (Yeah, I know. The “U”. But it’s been stuck in my head for the past 48 hours.); “Home”; “Til the Casket Drops”; “Put the Gun Down”

Image from silverdisc.com

2. Kronos Quartet. Yes, this is technically classical music, but don’t blow it off so fast. Probably the most famous string quartet in the world, these people are four of the most loved, hated, talented, and innovative musicians out there. The lineup of Kronos has changed numerous times over the years, but their specialty has always been contemporary classical music, often with international influences. Of their 43 studio albums, only a handful of which I’ve heard, my latest musical squeeze is Pieces of Africa. The album is as old as I am, but every time I listen to it, it sounds more fresh and invigorating and is just the coolest blending of genres. With compositions written for Kronos by several African composers, Pieces of Africa was controversial for its mission, but the music, to me, is a no-brainer in its grandeur, scale, and evocative sound. Listen for the percussiveness of the pieces, provided both by actual drums and by the strings.

Don’t miss: “Mai Nozipo (Mother Nozipo)” by Maraire; “Ekitundu Ekisooka (First Movement)” by Tamusuza (you can find it on Spotify); “White Man Sleeps #2” by Volans

3. Cover songs. I chose not to publish Friday’s column for the guide on here this week. I wrote about cover songs, but I think that’s a category that cannot be adequately addressed without some actual demonstration. So, take a chance and get right into it by listening. I’ve got an 8tracks mix of 25 covers ready for your ears. Apparently other 8tracks users are fans of it. I haven’t even publicized it, but judging from the number of likes, people are into Florence Welch covering Drake, Grizzly Bear taking on Hot Chip, and a whole bunch of songs from the 60s that you might not have known are covers.

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AMPlify Radio Playlist – November 1

For my radio show last Thursday, I decided to counter the possible lady-overload from the previous week with a male-dominated playlist. It was mostly folk and alt-country, but there was a pretty wide variety within that, along with some surprises.

As for why I chose to open with Sharon Van Etten, well, I just couldn’t help it. “All I Can” became my new favorite song of as of late after seeing her at the 9:30 Club on October 25.

Enjoy!

  1. Sharon Van Etten – “All I Can”
  2. U.S. Royalty – “Fool to Love (Like I Do)”
  3. Dr. Dog – “Lonesome”
  4. Ryan Adams – “Shakedown on 9th Street” (8tracks wouldn’t allow this track to be uploaded.)
  5. The Shins – “Girl on the Wing”
  6. Neil Young – “Out on the Weekend”
  7. Bright Eyes – “If the Brakeman Turns My Way”
  8. The Smiths – “Half a Person”
  9. Nick Waterhouse – “(If) You Want Trouble”
  10. The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
  11. The Avett Brothers – “Paranoia in B-flat Major”
  12. Mumford & Sons – “Holland Road”
  13. The Temptations – “Under the Boardwalk”

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As a side note, thank you to whoever has been listening to my 8tracks mix called “Classy.” I had no idea it would get over 200 plays!

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