Half Marathon 2013 Playlist

It was a great run this morning! Sunny day. Motivating playlist: lots of 80s and 90s, Toronto and Guelph representation here.  I crossed the finish line listening to “If You’re Bored, (shake it up)” by Light Fires. I was *not* at all bored chasing the 2hr pace bunny to the finish line! Another highlight was “Call Me Up” by the Magic. Great tune, and it was in my head (in a good way) for the rest of the day. I also added a new classical song to my running repertoire: Rosinni’s The Barber of Seville Overture. I was definitely running faster by the end of the song.

I ran the 21km in 2:06:41. I’m happy with this time, especially because my Garmin randomly froze and couldn’t be reset or restarted 4km into the run. I had to guess at my pace and content myself with picking “pink shirt”, “red shirt”, “flower shirt” to pass along the way and keep myself going. It was fun to start the race with my Guelph running clinic friends, even though I lost sight of them amidst the start line chaos, when ditching my extra outer layer on the sidelines. So many people!
Thanks for a great run Toronto!

1 Everything Is Alright – Four Tet
2 Feel It All Around – Washed Out
3 Reflektor – Arcade Fire
4 Call Me Up – the magic
5 Y Control – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
6 Animal (Mark Ronson Remix) – Single Miike Snow
7 The Harder They Come – Jimmy Cliff
8 Come And See – Young Galaxy
9 Let Me Take You Out – Class Actress
10 Praise You – Fatboy Slim
11 Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
12 The Barber of Seville – London Philharmonic Orchestra
13 Extreme Ways – Moby
14 Bizarre Love Triangle – New Order
15 Help, I’m Alive – Metric
16 Thunderstruck – AC/DC
17 Night Train – The Kills
18 Genesis – Grimes
19 Sisters (feat. Northern Voice) – A Tribe Called Red
20 Fly – Lamb
21 Rose Garden – Shad
22 That’s Alright – Laura Mvula
23 Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z
24 Keep Moving – Jessy Lanza
25 Time Is On My Side – Irma Thomas
26 Crash – The Primitives
27 Sure Shot – The Beastie Boys
28 Fineshrine – Purity Ring
29 Forgive Me – Austra
30 Big Time Sensuality – Björk
31 If You’re Bored – Light Fires
***finished during “If You’re Bored***
32 I’m Running (feat. Sam Roberts) – Misstress Barbara
33 Feel It In My Bones (feat. Tegan & Sara) – Tiësto
34 Dog Days Are Over – Florence & The Machine
35 This Machine – Kashka
36 Our Own Pretty Ways – First Aid Kit
37 Ghostwriter – RJD2
38 Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) – Arcade Fire
39 Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love) – JAY Z
40 Gold Lion (Nick Remix) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs



New Asics, New Arcade Fire: Reflektor!


I recently purchased the brightest pair of shoes I have ever owned. Check out these blue and orange sneakers. I feel energized just putting them. At least my feet will be glowing, even if I’m struggling up a hill. 🙂

Also, the new Arcade Fire song “Reflektor” is totally runnable, has great saxophones, and features David Bowie on back-up vocals (a fun little reversal of roles for Bowie, since he was the one with the back-up singers in my last blog post).


Ten years ago, I sang in a band called The Cryin’ Out Loud Choir and we were the final band playing a show with Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and Barmitzvah Brothers. It was the day that Johnny Cash left this world, and we ended the show all singing Cash songs together. The Arcade Fire brought so much energy and passion into the small venue we were playing. They were awesome. On fire even. And lo and behold, they became international superstars! I’m so happy for their success and love their music. #shamelessnamedropstory

Enjoy Reflektor. It’s definitely going on my next running playlist, especially as my new shoes are like bright light reflektors:

*I am grateful to Stuart Duncan for organizing that show back in 2003, and for making, saving and sharing the old posters.

20 feet from stardom: film review & running tunes that honour back-up singers

I recently saw “20 Feet From Stardom“, a fantastic documentary about back-up singers who featured prominently in American and British music from 1950 – 1970.   The film highlights the talents of Black female back-up vocalists who gave shape and power to popular music in those decades, and whose influence obviously continues. The obstacles the women faced in making it as solo artists were juxtaposed against the rich and famous male, white rock and pop artists whose careers were helped by adopting aspects of gospel music style, including back-up singing. The film contextualizes the experience of back-up singers within larger issues of power, gender, race, and social inequality and it is a fascinating documentation of American history through the lens of popular music.

The day after I watched the film, I sang back-up vocals and played saxophone for my dear and talented friend Laura. She can SING! It was so exciting to be in a real, fancy studio and be a part of her recording session.

I was inspired to make a long-run playlist featuring songs from the film and highlighting the talents of gospel and gospel-inspired musicians and back-up singers. Here are some I’ve been running to:

Slippery People by the Talking Heads

Young Americans by David Bowie. This song brings up issues around gender, race, violence, and perhaps all the tensions and contradictions of what “young American” meant in 1975 [or still means?]. Catchy tune, and lyrics to mull over while running.

Rock Steady by Aretha Franklin. In the film they talk about how Aretha was the ‘one’ female gospel singer that the industry would recognize, which in some ways limited the careers of these other very talented Black women. Whether she was better than the others is questionable, but she can certainly sing. I love “Rock Steady” for running.

One of the most interesting stories from the film is told by both Merry Clayton and Mick Jagger: Merry is called by her agent late at night to see if she will record vocals for the “Rolling somethings”, so she goes, pregnant in her pajamas with her hair in curlers to sing the intense lyrics about the proximity of threat, danger, and violence (war, rape, murder, it’s just a shot a way) on “Gimme Shelter”. Lyrics that capture the Stone’s feelings and fears about broader society in 1969. In the documentary they isolate Merry’s vocals from the rest of the song, and I actually had shivers listening.

20 Feet From Stardom trailer:

Farmland Running: Music to break through a relentless landscape


I am an urban planner and love running in the city, but occasionally family visits take me out into flat farmland where I have to contend with the relentless visual of gravel roads and farm fields.  Long runs are supposed to be mentally challenging as well as physical training, but in truth, I find it a bit boring (“oh look, more tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, soybeans, soybeans, soybeans, soybeans, corn!, corn, corn, corn corn, a single solitary tree! shaaaade…, corn, corn, wind turbine!, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes), SO my music playlists become even more important to keep me going and entertained.

A couple of weekends ago I learned the hard way that there is hardly any shade along farm fields, and running mid-morning in August is far too hot. For yesterday’s 13km I hit the gravel by 7:30am before the sun started baking the soil and rippening the tomatoes.  I forgot to bring my gps watch, so I really didn’t know my pace or time.  To keep myself going, and as an alternate to “10 and 1s”, I counted songs and hydro poles: “In three songs, I can stop for a brief walk and water break” … and “In four more hydro poles, or at the next stop sign, I can have a longer break and ‘gu’ to replace my energy. ”

Here are my playlist picks for countryside runs:

“Outside the City” by Young Galaxy
This is my favourite song to run to on country roads. Lyrics include: “outside the city I see, I see I am inside out”.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by Toots and the Maytals.
My preferred version of this song by Jamaican 1960s-70s reggae group Toots and the Maytals.

“Feedback in the Field” by Plants and Animals
This song starts with whistling, and keeps a good pace. Enough said?

“The Dirty Ol’ Tractor Song” by Little Miss Higgins
This is a fun Canadian farm-themed tune. I can’t find a full version online, but here’s a preview. http://www.amazon.com/The-Dirty-Ol-Tractor-Song/dp/B000Y8UCUQ
more on Little Miss Higgins: http://music.cbc.ca/#/artists/Little-Miss-Higgins

Austra “Olympia” album review: the running edition

Austra’s Katie Stelmanis has a beautifully impressive range. This fantastic electronic group from Toronto recently released their second album “Olympia“. I’ve taken the entire album out for a run and listened from track one to thirteen back to back. The following are my picks for Olympia’s most run-able songs.

Olympia’s second track “Forgive Me” has a great feet-moving beat, soaring vocals, awesome keys and even strings. This is my top pick for run-able tunes to keep my feet moving from Olympia.

I am a big fan of “Anne (Oh Muse, You)“. A totally run-able tune, with some amazing flute soloing (at about 2:48 minutes into the song). I am a woodwind player, whose primary instrument is flute, so I love it when the flute is taken out of traditional classical and added to a song like this with an eighties-esque vintage pop sound.

Home” is promoted by the band as a single on their website and in interviews, etc. and it’s a great track. The awesome pulsing keyboard beat doesn’t get going until 40 seconds in though, which is not ideal for a running song. This one also has some fun flute sounds, and maybe a trumpet?

Olympia’s opening song  “What We Done?” starts off quiet and builds, which actually makes for a great walk to run warm-up song.

This album will also get a lot of play as non-intrusive,  yet pulsing, motivating background music while I’m writing.

Heatwave Running

I confess that I bailed on last night’s run and training clinic because it was too scary hot out (to either drive in my hot car to the running room on the other side of the city, or to run)… and believe me I can tolerate a lot of heat! I kept waiting for these severe thunderstorms that were in the forecast, and then I would go run in the rain-cooled evening. But the rain never came, and I spent the evening watching TV sitting in front of a fan. Clearly this how training for a half marathon is done 😉

It’s the peak of summer so this post highlights my top picks for running in a heatwave.

To keep in a positive frame of mind about the sun and heat, I recommend “Hello Sunshine” by Jimmy Cliff. So many Jimmy Cliff songs make it onto my running playlists. “You can get it if you really want” is also a great one for a race day playlist.

“Stuck for the Summer” by east coast Canadian band Two Hours Traffic, is a great song to run to on summer days. “No wants to get stuck for the summer… It’s all about making good time”. Basically a summer running mantra.

“You’re my flame” by Zero 7 is another good one on this theme: “you take a stroll into the morning sun” … “you make this seem like a whole lot of fun” (useful to remember that running in the heat can be fun). This song has a good steady beat, but is actually fairly laid back, which makes a nice mid-playlist track for a heatwave run.

Perhaps most obviously, the 1963 hit “(Love is like a) Heat Wave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. 

Maybe on such a hot day “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones is also appropriate – haha. This is actually is another great running song.

Roadrunner M.I.A & Modern Lovers track pairing

One of my favourite running playlist track pairings is The Modern Lovers’ “Roadrunner” (1976) and M.I.A.’s “Bamboo Banga” (2007).

As my feet hit the pavement and the Modern Lovers stream through my headphones with their protopunk love for the modern world and their AM radio, I become a roadrunner. Even if I’m not runnin’ 100 mph 😉

“Roadrunner” by The Modern Lovers

“Bamboo Banga” by M.I.A draws on the Modern Lovers song, giving it her own thirty years later spin, coming back with power, power.