Thursday, January 31, 2013

SOD: Youth Lagoon -- Dropla

"You'll never die / you'll never die..."

That's one helluva chorus to Dropla, the first single off Youth Lagoon's upcoming Wondrous Bughouse. I'm fascinated by the way the "you'll never die" line is repeated over and over and how it morphs into different meanings the longer you hear it, from a hopeful plea to a deflated dream and through other stages of disillusion. And then when singer Trevor Powers draws out "you weren't there...when I needed" during the buildup, man it just kills me.

Wondrous Bughouse lands March 5. If this first single is any indication, that record is going to be solid. Powers says he's “becoming more fascinated with the human psyche and where the spiritual meets the physical world.” I hope he means the record will have more songs like Dropla.

Hopefully they will tour around here. I caught them at Pitchfork Music Fest in July 2012 (video from the festival below), and they have a very strong live show. Powers' voice carries extremely well live, and the band is tight. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

SOD: Dan Deacon -- True Thrush

It's gotten very cold the past few weeks in Michigan. Wind chills in the negatives, plenty of snow, tough running conditions. I had plans to run 100+ miles per week the last two weeks but conditions limited my mileage. 3 hours running would normally garner 22+ miles, but with all the sliding around, I was only getting a fraction of the mileage for the time. 

Mostly it's been fun. Snow is soft when there is good footing, so the downhills are great to blast down. Hardly anyone else is out there, so you have fresh powder to track. I saw a fox in The Arb and deer in Cedar Bend, just me and the forest creatures. The snow dampens all other sounds, so you seem to have the world in your hands out there. But it's tough to keep going. So I've turned to new music to keep me motivated through the 2+ hour runs. 

Along the way, I've discovered Dan Deacon's LP 'America'. Electronic music, not dance necessarily, but with a range of influences and interests, from Philip Glass to Can. I happen to love both ends of this spectrum, so I totally dig his music. It takes on a language and soundtrack that perfectly matches the long, snowy runs that are so much enveloped in your head and at the same time connected with the harsh world around you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

SOD: Ty Segall -- Thank God For Sinners

Thank god that garage rock still exists and is still this good. Ty Segall is playing the local Ann Arbor dive bar/music venue, the Blind Pig, on 3/7, and I can't wait to drop into that crowd, throw some elbows around, toss our fists in the air, and jump around until we're senseless while this band churns out loud guitar music.

Segall's music output over the last 5 years is overwhelming. He releases at least two albums a year, so it's hard to know where to start. This song is off Twins (2012), and is probably the best door to his expansive house of music.

The NSFW video gives me the oogy feelings all over and the end is satisfyingly disgusting.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SOD: Telekinesis -- Ghosts and Creatures

The new Telekinesis album, Dormarion, will come out in a few months (March?), and if this lead single, "Ghosts and Creatures", is any indication of its direction, this album is going to be a welcome shift in sound for Telekinesis. 

Michael Lerner, who is the man behind Telekinesis, has written dozens of tunes that can be described as pure pop goodness on previous releases, but this song is much darker, almost suffocatingly so. The keys at one end sear and the other end rattle and buzz, pulling the song apart and driving its satisfying resolution.

The lyrics float over the top, so you only pick up on some of the striking images: a ship on a lonely sea, something being electrified, another thing being cut down. It's not clear exactly what he's talking about, but the song carries a very strong sense of longing and desperation. Which always makes for a great pop song.

3/19/13 Update. Telekinesis released this brilliant video for the song, wherein Lerner falls in love with a girl stuck inside an old computer.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Race Report: Yankee Springs 50k Trail Run

How could a race plan this good possibly go wrong? It's like going to the thrift store for an '80s theme party costume. Shoo-in.

Step 1 - Rent heated cabin at race site for the weekend with running friends.
Step 2 - Run a 50k trail race
Step 3 - Celebrate with food, bonfire, and booze.
Step 4 - Run more trail the next day and invite Cody pup along this time.

It's bulletproof. Even if the rustic cabin that sleeps five is 10' x 20' and the beds sink like hammocks. Even if the temps are in the 20s. You're with good people who like to run! Boom, win.

Putting the rustic in cabin life
Tim, Julie, and Jon arrived Friday night and set up gear in the cabin. Jon and I enjoyed some pre-race drinks, and then headed out with Cody into the night to test our shoes on the trails. Discovery: the trails were hard packed with runnable snow, so no yaktrax on the Peregrines. Tomorrow would be a fast day.

Admission: I hate race morning until the start gun goes off. But here, waking up an hour and a half before the 9am start, rolling out of bed, and knowing the start is only 1/8 mile away is fantastic. Total stress killer. We headed to the start 20 minutes before the gun, met up with a crew of BTers -- the fantastic Kimm, Kathleen, and Dave -- and then some people I'd never met IRL and tried to warm up the sticks with some butt kicker drills.

The RD yelled "GO" and we took off. Jon and I were among the lead pack until the first trail crossing where someone yelled "wrong way!" and we all tried to turn back, but I was on ice, so I slipped and hit the deck. Ok, nothing hurts, keep running. Jon took the lead up the first hill, and I followed. We were moving very quickly. 7:00/mi on the downhills and only a little slower on the up. I knew it was too fast, but I was so relaxed, breathing felt great and so did my legs.

After a mile, the snow-covered gravel road hit the single track, so there was plenty of space early race to seed ourselves. Jon pulled away after a few miles and I convinced myself that I needed to run my own race and slow down to a pace that I actually had a snowball's chance in hell of holding. After a few more miles, a guy passed me like Hermes (swear he had winged feet) and took off after Jon, seeing that I wasn't interested in keeping contact with the leader.

Smooth, hardpacked snow, just a little icy:
Photo Credit: Ben VanHoose
A few miles later I glanced back down the trail to see who else is holding steady at 7:15/mi average pace. Only one guy back there in blue, so it looked like we'd be duelling it out for 3rd and 4th. Aight, keep the effort easy, breathe, talk to this guy, maybe make a friend. Turns out, dude in blue -- Noah -- is running the 25k! Hooray! I told him that was the best news I'd heard all day.

He was great company, so we chatted for a while about trail racing and miles clicked by super fast. The pace slowed since we were in the hilly back half of the 25k loop. I was almost to the 13 mile point when we hit this section with switchbacks and I could see other runners. Oh damn, time to kick it up. I pulled away from Noah and ran solo the rest of the race.

Me and Noah past 6mi aid station manned by Ben VanHoose:
Photo Credit: Ben VanHoose
Came into the start/finish mile 15.5 at 1:54. On pace for a sub-3:50. Hmmm, that's a lot fast. I swapped out my one just-finished bottle at the drop bag area, though I should've had a separate handheld with full bottle ready. I fumbled and lost 30 seconds getting the new bottle into my handheld with popsicle fingers.

I decided early-race to keep 10 mile splits on the Garmin. It seemed like a manageable distance to attack mentally. First 10 miles I was doing great, and by the next 10 miles I'd only slowed 5 seconds per minute per mile. I'm definitely bleeding pace, but it's not a hemorrhage. Put a tourniquet on that shit and let's start racing.

Photo Credit: Ryan Heidenfeld
At mile 21 I hit Ben's aid station and was feeling pretty dehydrated. I couldn't decide whether I needed my bottle filled, the thoughts wouldn't congeal, so obviously I really needed water. Took down some coke and gatorade and left with a full bottle and promised myself I'd drink often and finish that bottle. Ben said I was 4 minutes behind Jon. Didn't mention the other guy. I thanked him and pressed on.

The mileage and time were going by really slowly now. I was trapped in my brain with hurting legs, elevated heart rate, and no distraction. I wanted my ipod so bad right now! Why didn't I bring it?! Don't panic, just keep thinking, 'less than 8 miles, just one Huron River loop. You've done this a million times. You're not 23 miles into a race, you're on Huron parkway, running downhill on your favorite stretch of road.' It was a band aid. And the blood was starting to seep through.

A couple that was hiking the trail told me I was in 2nd place. Wha?! What happened to the two in front? That definitely lifted my spirits, but I know you can never trust what people tell you out there. Hang on, keep pushing it. I wondered for a spell whether this much pain was actually healthy for a person. I sang Kishi Bashi's "Bright Whites". Nothing helped. I was in the pain cave.

I wanted to throw my Garmin into the woods so I'd stop looking at it and seeing the pace shuffle backwards.  Less than 3 miles to go. Where was the surge of energy I'd stashed in my tights? Spent it long ago. Thought I was running on credit, but I always pay cash on the trail. And the green was gone.

The last mile, with its final, sinister little pitch upward, didn't give me any energy either. My legs were done, my bottle empty and gels kicked. I left everything I brought to this race out on the course. As I crossed the finish I shouted, 'Am I done?' I was half serious, half not so with it. I collapsed with hands on knees, awash with happiness and pain. I saw Jon and congratulated him on the win -- and the course record!

I got 2nd place overall! How did that happen?! And a 24 minute PR with a 3:50, just 30 seconds shy of going under the course record. That's 7:25/mi average...where in the hell did that come from?!

Neither Jon nor I knew what happened to the other guy who had taken off ahead of Jon on the first loop. Several minutes later the front runner in question, Jordan Lafreniere, came through and told us he got lost and couldn't get back. Damn, that sucks.

I picked out a sweet Montrail toque as my prize and snow globe award then headed to the cabin for warm dry clothes, celebratory whisky + beer + food. We cheered runners as they came through the cabin campground and told race and running stories. This is what it's all about. The hard work is over, the proof is in the pain, and now we celebrate.

Tim came through the camp with a strong finishing kick and we gave him hearty cheers. Then it was off to the finish to catch Alaina. She was beautiful. Just finished her first ultra. So happy for her!

Alaina on course in her first ultra:
Photo Credit: Ryan Heidenfeld
We all went to the main cabin lodge for delicious chili and two roaring fireplaces for more running stories, joined by Dave Potter and then Ben. Lots of stories and ultra talk. Man, I love this scene.

As the light faded, we moved to the outdoor bonfire pit, roasting food, celebrating with drinks and talking to cabin neighbors. Yep, this camaraderie keeps me racing.

We capped off the weekend with a 10 mile out-n-back the next day with Alaina, Jon, and Cody on the gorgeous, hilly back half of the course, going easy and stopping to enjoy the views we'd missed during the race. A fresh covering of snow was a nice treat too.

I highly recommend the Yankee Springs races. They're well organized, the events start on time, it's a fast course with some hills, and you're on awesome trails with a mix of pines and old growth hardwoods, and almost all of the course is single track. I'd definitely race here again.

Happy Running!
Jon, Me, Cody, and Alaina after our tenner

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SOD: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis -- Thrift Shop

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's 2012 record, The Heist, has been on heavy rotation in my ears for the past month, and the horn jam, Thrift Shop, has been blasted early and often. 

And the video is hilarious. It's the first video I've seen in many years that's actually as good as the song. I laugh my ass off every time I see Macklemore in the thrift shop jumping from beat up couch to couch wearing a fluffy long coat.  In slow motion. 

The rap duo is on fire right now. They've been selling out shows for months, both US and in abroad (dang, I missed them at St. Andrews in Detroit). The Heist has sold 200,000+ copies. Damn good sales for today.

I love the horns on this song, and the dopey "what what?" at the opening over tinny casiotone sounds makes the actual beat and horn line drop in heavy and sound crazy. I probably wouldn't listen to a whole record of Thrift Shop type songs, but the record has sober, introspective moments as well, making this song all about the fun.

Fun times:
Your grammy, your aunty, your momma, your mammy
I’ll take those flannel zebra jammies, second-hand, I rock that motherfucker
The built-in onesie with the socks on that motherfucker

Thursday, January 3, 2013

SOD: Kishi Bashi -- Bright Whites

This damn song is irresistible. I'm serious. I don't want to like this song as much as I do. But one listen isn't enough. 2-3 times through per session is a must. It's a great summer song, which means it's a great winter song too.

I'm pretty stoked for Yankee Springs trail 50k this Saturday, and if I decide to run with music, Bright Whites is getting several slots on the mixtape. At the very least it'll get played a few times in the heated cabin we've rented at the race start for the weekend. Dang, 2013 is gonna be sweet by starting it off with this much fun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

SOD: Best Coast -- The Only Place

Happy New Year! It's been a great 2012. This year, I made new running friends, got a promotion at work, finished my first 100 miler, run-explored the trails in Kentucky, Tennessee, Connecticut, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Some of my best memories were running in Red River Gorge, Pictured Rocks, Great Smoky Mountains, Tecumseh trail, and the Rocky Mountains.

So here's a song about loving where you are and realizing how lucky you are to be right there. For Best Coast that place is California, and they love the waves, the mountains, etc. But the song's not about why CA is awesome and everywhere else sucks. Not to me anyway. It's about being in love with your place, wherever you are.

Produced by pop guru (and underrated), Jon Brion, the title and lead track off Best Coast's 2012 album celebrates everything I love about the band. Tight melodies, hooks that can make crowds smile, and a bouncy rhythm section that is undeniably fun.

"Why would you live anywhere else?" sings Bethany Cosentino.

I have no idea.