The first soundtrack to… post that I did (last week, here) was inspired in concept, whilst the actual album was from my own reservoirs of inspiration. This week, as I excitedly delve into more and more albums whilst I run (also more and more), the listen is externally inspired.
James Acaster is a comedian who recently had a bit of boon with a single idea: that 2016 is the greatest year in music of all time. To convince the world that he is right he wrote a book and now, because it is 2020, he also a podcast which seeks to serve a similar purpose. Each episode he sends a guest a copy of an album from 2016 for them to listen to, and then they dissect it together.
In one episode (with Rob Deering, who has been mentioned on this blog before as one half of the Running Commentary podcast duo) the album in question was Beyond the Fleeting Gales by Crying. Encouraged by the way the pair described the album as a happy blend of adult orientated rock (think Toto, Journey), riff heavy stadium rock, and chirpy gameboy chiptune, I was intrigued, and figured I would take it with me on this week’s long run (13 miles, avg. 7:02 a mile).
First off, the name Crying for this band is ill-fitting, and the album cover for Beyond the Fleeting Gales is beyond the realms of awful. What is that font? What is that MS Paint image? God.
Things kick off with Premonitory Dream, which to me was nicely reminiscent of a pop punk banger: a little angsty, fierce in it’s guitars, but also more instrumentally diverse. It’s a great track to set you off at a pace a little quicker than you intended.
Wool in the Wash might settle you down a little, but only a little. This is a sparky, spunky song which puts it’s fist in the air during the chorus, and steadies down in the versus. An instrumental bridge on the back end gives us the first taste of the video-game synthesizers which weave their way through this album, before the song winds up to a huge, final delivery of that lighters up chorus.
I love the arcade, beat-em-up, guitars which set Patriot on it’s way. The overall vibe of this track is wonderful. It’s sunny, excited rock, perfect for running with a smile on your face and settling into that flow state. The mixing of the vocals on this track, and several others on the album, isn’t quite so amazing. Sometimes the vocalist feels a little lost in the mix, but to be completely honest when I’m running this is hardly an issue.
Origin is a straight up rocker. It’s punchy, short, and has this lovely little Outrun-esque synth line through the middle, although the focus is most certainly on delicious guitar work. This one is definitely for cutting loose and letting those legs fly, the ideal downhill belter.
The vibe from Origin to Well and Spring is quite different, as this doesn’t rollock along with quite the same bounce in it’s step. It’s a far more introspective track, with a soft bed of droning synths keeping it in the shadows, whereas most of the album is steeped in ultra bright light. But the point of listening to an album in its entirety is that it takes you a journey, and in terms of running the simplicity of variety is a blessing. When I ran to this album I wasn’t checking splits or trying to hit a certain pace, I was more focused on soaking up my surroundings, the sun, and the songs, and as such my speed wasn’t exactly consistent. I slammed down certain downhills, charged up certain uphills, and jogged around certain corners. A change of pace in the soundtrack was as natural as my stride, and completely welcome.
A Sudden Gust again had me thinking about pop punk. Although the stadium rock aspect that I was expecting from listening to the podcast is definitely there, the aesthetic of the album, to me, is less ten-thousand strong crowd, more road trip with friends in a cramped van. Sure, the chorus’ soar, but isn’t that what the pop part of pop punk was all about?
The next track, There Was a Door has one of the most cheerful openings to a song that I’ve heard. I’m not entirely sure about the half-sung, half-rapped lyrics, again because of the mixing. I just wish the vocal element of some of these tracks popped a little brighter, as the instrumentals around them (particularly on this track) are just so clean, so stunning, that the human element, the poetic element, is somewhat lost. Still, this is a great track to run with. In the middle of a long run, as far from your house as you’re going to get, the sheer optimism that it gives the listener is a tonic for aching muscles, and dark thoughts.
We go straight from this into Revive, and let me tell you, that transition really gave me a big smile as I rolled along the back roads, baking in the sun. This is where the stadium rock comparisons come into play, with these huge, chunky guitar licks setting the pace as the drums stagger to life with some massive hitting. The overall hugeness of this song never really lets up. It’s impressive how something can be so full and noisy, whilst also staying melodic and charming.
Children of the Wind is a change of pace, a chance to look up from the pavement and take in some sky. The vocals here get the most room that they get on the whole album, and I really like them, but my favourite aspect of this track is the combination of blinking keys and horn-like synth lines which had me recalling the melancholy of the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack.
The Curve starts like a great synthwave song, with rolling arcade synths bleeping the song into excited existence, before the thunder of the drums rolls through and clears the air for the vocals to have their say. You will run faster to this song. I think it might be impossible not to.
This is not a perfect album. The vocals getting so lost in the mix is something that really bugs me. However, running with this album does sort of remove the issue. The brightness of the instrumentals, the energy, the optimism, regardless of the vocals, really did me some wonders out on the road, and for that reason I’m certain that this album will be a companion with me on more long runs in the future.
What run is this album best for? A uptempo one, of decent length, where it can help you find that flow state.
Any tracks a runner should skip? I love Children of the Wind, but it’s more of a walk in the park, than a run up a hill.
Best track to up the tempo with? The Curve.