Inspired by the Running Punk (Jimmy Watkins) and his energetic on-the-run reviews of high volume acts such as Run the Jewels, IDLES, and Every Time I Die, I decided that on my next run I would vow to ditch the playlist, dodge the podcast, and commit to running with a full album.
Thing is, it was an easy day! I didn’t need the kick of a skull slapping bass drum, or pulse raising guitar riffs, I needed something to bop along to, something to cruise with. As luck would have it I already had the latest release from George Clanton lined up – George Claton and Nick Hexum – and I knew that would hit the spot.
Clanton is an innovator in the vaporwave scene, but it was his last album Slide – an expansive project which combined his vaporwave expertise with electronic pop and trip hop – that really got me interested. But, as you might guess from the album title, Clanton is not alone on this latest endeavour. This time he is joined by Nick Hexum from 90’s rockers 311. I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with the band, or that I believe they have a huge amount of cache in today’s music market, but Clanton is apparently a fan, and the collaboration has proven to be a tremendous success.
I must reiterate, I wasn’t looking for violent inspiration on this particular run and if that’s what you need this album simply isn’t it. This is a project which combines the stoned optimism of 311 (and countless bands like them from the 90s) with mystical new age vibes, and Clanton’s signature electronic soundscapes.
It is pure escapism, pure joy.
It is, however, not your typical workout album. If anything it’s an album for laying flat on your back with, ideally in a nice little sunbeam, possibly with some kind of personal indulgence to keep you company.
But then running is about more than just working out, isn’t it? And running can be an indulgence, can’t it?
Aurora Summer is a warm and woozy buzzer to set us off at a slow and steady pace. It’s a nostalgic summer song. It’s childhood, theme parks, swimming pools. It’s the beach, it’s barbecues, it’s the memory of music that sounds like this. It’s the perfect way to set us off on a nice gentle run. Switch that watch to be just a watch, or take it off completely, because what it says doesn’t matter.
How you feel is what’s important. Feeling good is what’s important.
The buzz carries over into Out of the Blue, which is a bit more of a head bopper, with a thicker bass thumping into a steady, galloping beat, dense with synthetic texture through the chorus, which then settles and clears and provides the perfect soundtrack to the roads flying by past your car window as you cruise along…or for the pavement passing smoothly beneath your feet.
Under Your Window is infectiously optimistic. It’s lyrics paint a picture of romantic determination, and it’s backed by an eternally sunny instrumental punctuated with an uplifting, twanging melody. It’s good mood music, and it should help put a smile on your face as the miles start to rack up.
The good mood doesn’t end there though. Driving in My Car takes that mood and amplifies it with some chic, funky guitar licks. Hexum’s slightly snappier delivery might just help you up the tempo slightly, if that’s what you want to do, but it should still be no problem whatsoever to stand up, nice and tall, and keep on plodding to the beat.
Topanga State of Mind is probably the best running track on the album, taking us back into the summer of the opener (did we ever leave?) with an extremely groovy holiday jam. Running isn’t always exactly a holiday, but with this as your soundtrack, it might feel pretty close to even if (as it was as I ran/listened) you’re getting after it in the wind and rain.
Crash Pad and King for a Day were the first two tracks from this project to be released, and they certainly served their purpose of teasing me into excitement. Crash Pad is one of my favourite songs of the last decade. The new age pan flute which flows across the breadth of this track, the spiralling guitars, the circling beats, the content loser lyrics…it’s bliss. King For a Day is certainly not one to be skipped either.
In fact, I don’t think there’s a skip on this album. If there’s any, it would be the slightly un-necessary prelude to Time of Wandering because why the hell does it need a prelude? It might as well just be part of the song. But then it’s only thirty seconds, so let’s not get too upset. Although, if it’s only thirty seconds why isn’t it just part of the damn song?
Anyway! Time of Wandering (proper) is one of the most chill songs on an unbelievably chill album, with squelching synth squawks which sound like they’re coming up from under the sea, and Hexum delivering his earnest, dreamy vocals from some faraway echo chamber, Clanton’s marching drum beat fading oh so softly into the end.
Shouldn’ta Done That is a more dramatic track to round things off, leaving Hexum’s vocals and the layered, twinkling, space age instrumental without the otherwise permanent drum fixtures for a minute at the start, allowing for a build up and release of tension which sets this track slightly aside from its counterparts. Later in the track we get some horns which sound like they’re off some PS1 era RPG soundtrack, and I don’t know what to say about that other than I like them a lot.
Which really sums it all up. I like this album a lot. I liked running to this album a lot, although it is most certainly not a running album. It might even be the complete opposite of what we tend to look for in a running album. Maybe that’s what we need sometimes. We can’t go into every run with a raging bull attitude, and this album provided the perfect energy for an easy run. It set the tone, and confirmed my attitude. Easy. Content. Happy.
And, because I think I’ll be writing more posts like this in the future, we’ll end with a summation of sorts.
What run is this album best for? An easy one. For when you need to remind yourself that running doesn’t always have to be a slog.
Any tracks a runner should skip? I don’t think it’s necessary if you’re taking it easy, but I had originally penned Time of Wandering as the toughest song to build up any momentum with. Although, having got out again with this album (just before posting) I realise that actually, despite the chill mood, the marching beat makes it very easy to zone out with and plod along to. That would make Shouldn’ta Done That the one hardest to run to…but I still don’t think you should skip it, it’s a lovely end to the album.
Best track to up the tempo with? It might not be the best album selection if uptemo is what you’re looking for but, if you do get the urge, Topanga State of Mind will get your legs turning over at a snappier pace.