Thursday, December 31, 2009

Albums Of The Year

Another solid year for the tunes. For me the year had 5 or 6 stand out albums and then a lot of very good albums. My top 10 of the year is not as clear cut as 2008. I would say the top 4 albums are clear and my play count reflects this however a couple of my top ten could easily be replaced by the honorable mention list, but who cares so here it goes. My favorite albums of 2009.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeah's - Its Blitz!All the garage-rock fans of early YYY's work decided this album was crap. I mean who wants to see a band evolve their sound to make some of the most beautiful tracks of the year? This nonsense does my head in. The same stuff happened when Radiohead made "Kid A", not that I'm putting this on the same level. Karan O is a fantastic vocalist and she is on top of her game here. The album is more produced than early work but the sound has been honed into a bolder more layered version of their garage-rock roots. Aside from the exceptional "Maps", I've never really gotten into the work of YYY's until this album. Its got nu wave elements and amazing ballads that match the emotions of "Maps". It will be played for a long time to come.

9. Passion Pit - Manners

I may regret putting this album in my top 10. But I can't deny that I played the hell out of it all summer. Many bike rides were accompanied by this album and even though its cheesy at the best of times it is very infectious and uplifting. I heard 'Sleepyhead' for the first time on WDOM Providence College radio and immediately called in to ask about the band. This was swiftly followed up by the purchase of "A Chunk Of Change". It was all positive from that point forward. I'm a little sick of the album now and it does sound very commercial but the truth is I really enjoyed it for several months. The blatant use of in your face synths and poptastic drums all work really well. The album, because of this, is really sincere and joyful. I'm skeptical about the longevity of this work and the band but "Manners" is really good and very refreshing. Puts a smile on my face every time.

8. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus I've no idea what happened to me in 2009. I softened up my taste and really enjoyed more pop music than I have in years. While drifting away from the likes of "Coldplay" and "The Killers", I found myself listening to music that is equally if not more commercial. Not saying that all of a sudden I'm into the billboard charts, but I'm not afraid to let my guard down anymore. I loved this album and Liztomania is one of the best songs I heard this year. I saw these guys years ago in Boston so I don't feel like I'm jumping on any bandwagon. Ordinarily I would never listen to Phoenix but their music is so infectious and enjoyable. The album is full of pop anthems and is really well crafted. Its sounds very natural and the music can be played anywhere. OK, I need to move on before I crack up.

7. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
Perhaps the most hyped album of the year. The blog world was awash with tension prior to the release of this album. People claiming they had leaked copies and thus becoming the envy of the readers. In the end my anticipation was not met with the greatest album of the decade nay the year. Rather it was met with a very good, forward thinking, and extremely unique album that typifies the sound of Animal Collective. It took a while for me to 'get' the record but when I finally did I thoroughly enjoyed it. I read somewhere that every song on this album could be somebody's favorite which is a great testament to the work. "My Girls" is a personal favorite and certainly their are no tracks worth skipping. However, for me, the hype was greater than the album. I might have enjoyed it more if I just stumbled upon it. After almost a year of listening I still enjoy it and it certainly deserves a place in the top 10 of any list. Perhaps the most original sounding album of the year.

6. Jonsi And Alex - Riceboy Sleeps
I have never been shy to discuss my love for Sigur Ros. They are one of my favorite bands and their music is breathtaking. On this work, Jonsi and his partner Alex drop the vocals and create a soundscape that is so beautiful I can't help but be floored. When I heard "Happiness" for the first time the hairs on my neck started celebrating. The track is epic, haunting, and very emotional. Its sets the perfect tone for a fantastic musical journey. The album came at a perfect time for me. Despite not getting the love from the music media and the blogosphere the album is still a standout. Maybe people were expecting Sigur Ros, and although the textures and sounds are very Sigur, the album is not. Its intensely personal and powerful. The kind of work that you listen to with headphones on and just your thoughts. Jonsi is a genius in my opinion and few other artist takes me away like he does. Fantastic.

5. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

These guys have really wormed they way into my heart. I saw them open for Radiohead a couple of times but never really loved them the way the music media did. However, determined not to be swayed by the hype all over the web, I bought "Veckatimest" and loved it. "Two Weeks" is one of my favorite tracks of the year and it is buttressed by some amazing music. Edward Droste has a beautiful and very unique voice that can almost come across as boring or lacking energy, but its those qualities that make this album so good. Without trying really hard the vocals and instrumentation work amazing well together and create an expansive sound that is as intimate as it is sonic. A journey to be celebrated.

4. Julian Plenti - Julian Plenti Is SkyscraperLoved this album so much. I'm no authority on music. Really its all subjective and personal which is why I tend to not like year end lists (even though I read all of them!) Sometimes the music press is a little pretentious and music blogs even more so. However these people love their sounds which is why they write about it. Julian Plenti didn't fare well on the year end lists and I don't quite know why. Maybe its just because I find Paul Bank's voice so uplifting. Maybe I base too much of my judgment on vocals, I don't know. What I do know is that from start to finish Skyscraper is fantastic. The songs do have an Interpol feel which is unavoidable given the unique nature of Bank's vocals and maybe that is why I love the album so much. Every song is great and there is something for everyone on the album. From "Games For Days" which would sound great in a packed stadium to "Unwind" which is so joyful, built simply around a repetitive vocal, to "Only If You Run" which is poppy, cheerful, and so uplifting, the record has it all. I saw him perform twice this year and even in a small venue with a sparse crowd the emotion and energy is immediate and alive. Awesome.

3. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
Natasha Khan aka Bat for Lashes is currently my favorite female vocalist. I was so excited about this album given how much I enjoyed "Fur and Gold", and from the instant I heard the opener, the amazing "Glass", I was sold. She is exceptionally talented, a modern day Kate Bush. She weaves elements of mysticism, new age and melody to create stunning music that is simply hers. "Daniel" is one of my favorite tracks of the year and with its infectious chorus and 80's influenced drums it serves as a perfect juxtaposition to the likes of "Glass". The album is about duality, and while I don't like to get that deep into the meanings of the music, Khan is such an artist that to just listen to the songs is almost belittling the effort and the scope of the work. She has poured her heart and soul into the album and therefore respect must be shown to the conceptual side of the work. However if you don't agree, just listen away, because while I'm spouting all this gibberish about concepts and art, the fact is the album is instantly listenable and truly joyful.

2. Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today
I'm not sure what the title is all about (its a poem and I am not writing it out) but the music that the album contains is amazing. I keep reading about Mew and Prog Rock and while I don't know too much about the genre I do know that I love this sound and I could care less about what genre it falls into. "And The Glass Handed Kites" is one one of my albums of the decade with its continuous blending of songs (maybe thats the prog rock buzz) and epic moments so naturally I've been waiting patiently for another Mew record. And this does not fail to deliver. Whether or not it is better than previous albums is a moot point, the work is awesome and will gain new fans considering its more commercial moments. The first track I heard off the album was "Introducing Palace Players" and I probably played it 20 times in a row. The same can be said for "Silas The Magic Car". The songs cry out to be played loud and regularly. This is a must have album that surprises and inspires. Their live show left me speechless. Mew and everything about them is fantastic.

1. Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer
Spencer Krug. Genius. The guy can do no wrong in my eyes. His voice has something that triggers all manner of emotions in me. His lyrics and song structures are otherworldly. Each song on the album has its own story with twists and turns that many albums fail to achieve. 8 songs, 48 minutes, infinite enjoyment. When Camilla joins Spencer after 3:30 in the opening "Silver Moons" it may be the most satisfying moment in music during 2009, (Thom Yorke singing "Present Tense" is also up there) and from that point on the album grips you and moments of epic proportions fill the rest of the record. Each song deserves to be written about on its own and I'm not going to do justice to the album in a short paragraph. I listened to this album more than any other this year and Sunset Rubdown at "Lees Palace" in Toronto was the best gig I was at this year. To follow up "Random Spirit Lover" seemed an impossible task but they did and Spencer seemed to do it with little effort such is the scope of his talent. An absolute belter of an album.

Honorable Mentions that could easily make the top 10 on a different day.

White Lies - To Lose My Life
Handsome Furs - Face Control
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Self Titled
Fever Ray - Fever Ray
Memory Tapes - Seek Magic
The XX - Self Titled
Zoot Woman - Things Are What They Used To Be
The Whitest Boy Alive - Rules
Editors - In This Light And On This Evening

Ice Age Coming

Today is the 31st of December and I find myself reflecting on the last 2 weeks with much joy and a little restlessness. It is very nice to be sitting on the couch with a large mug of dark coffee finally catching up with the world after a significant absence from the surfing of the web. Not that I missed the web too much. My 4 days in London and 7 days in Ireland were awesome. I have the best mates in the world and despite some current hard times they still smile and offer great cheer. I've had the same group of friends for over 20 years and they are like family. I would lay down in traffic for them. The laughter and hangovers will last a long time. Like all decadent behavior it comes crashing to an end at some point and for me about 4 or 5 nights usually does it. I like to think I can handle the nights out better than most, then I go out with the lads and I realize I'm very much an amateur. Frankie did really well and her improvement was the perfect off set to my below average performance. We got through however and now the switch has been flicked. My friend Ged has noticed this behavior over the years. Basically I live the lifestyle for a while and then I snap because my body rejects the fuel and longs for the burn of some hard training and good sleep. It used to be two months off before I'd snap and now its less than 2 weeks. Maturity is a bitch.

I arrived back last night and got on my trainer for an easy 45 minutes followed by a lot of core work. Its back to the grind. The plan was to go out in Boston tonight to ring in the new year but that looks less and less like its going to happen. The 2 inches of snow that sits and continues to accumulate outside my window will most likely quash the plans.

I was never a big new year fan. And I never felt that the new year was good timing to make radical changes. For some people it offers a target date to make the changes they wish to see but in essence its an arbitrary day, no different than any other tomorrow. For many people the timing comes after their own week of madness through the holidays and it offers a new dawn, a new year where goals are set and dreams are made. I completely respect this. For me the new year was always at the end of the summer. The track season would end and the preparation for cross country would start. It would be a few weeks of swill and getting fat before the double days and the grind. The new year was always just another opportunity to hit the tiles but the decisions and goals were set months prior. Now I find myself actually thinking about 2010 and the goals (or lack thereof) I have set. I am still not sure how my body will react to training. My right knee has improved under the wonderful craftsmanship of Brian McKeon but my left knee is still screwed. Having a hole in my cartilage makes goal setting a little more difficult.

If I can make some changes in 2010 they will entail being more responsible (such an adult) and accepting that I'm not 21 anymore. I need to tone down the hard training and the constant desire to bury myself in every session. This is not a joke, its a real problem. I find it difficult to workout in the right "zones" or what ever you want to call it. My easy hour on the trainer always turns into an interval session. An easy 3 mile run to test my knee always turns into a 6 mile steady run. When I get fit, a 5 mile tempo run turns into a 6-7 mile race. A 12 mile long run turns into an 18 mile hard run. I say I'll run at 7 minute pace but always end up below 6 minute pace. Excess and inability to make the correct decisions always gets me in trouble. The old, I'm going for 1 beer but drink 6 beers mentality. I am literally on my last legs and these are the only knees I have. So 2010, kelrock will be more responsible. Additionally I am going to more concerts and going to get more involved in music. Thats the buzz.

Happy New Year and Keep Believing.

I have a few music lists to put up now.

Love Kel

Friday, December 25, 2009

When A Cold Wind Blows It Chills You


We are alive and well, just pretty hungover and feeling incredibly fat. But thats what the holidays are all about. The Lads FC deserve a blog of their own. The best bunch in the world. But right now is not the time. Hope everyone has a fantastic few days,

Peace and Much Love,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Come Home - She Lifted Up Her Wings

Back on the old stomping grounds. Caught up on sleep and now off to get buzzed on espresso. Off to London tomorrow for 3 days. Knee is coming around nicely. Swelling is almost gone and only incision soreness and slight swelling behind the knee is causing any discomfort.

All good heading into the holiday period. Just published on, a little playlist from my current iPod Shuffle selection and a little bit about the importance of music, see below,

Love Kel,7120,s6-240-466--13367-0,00.html

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Begging For A Break

If I didn't have an overwhelming desire to train and attend live music shows I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I mean what do people do. It hit me hard the last few days with being laid up and immobile, sans Frankie, house mates, and training. I 'm pretty sure that between last Thursday and today I finally read the entire Internet. Sure it took a lot of commitment but its doable, especially when there is nothing else to do. Not to mention that I went to Target and the Mall, twice, for some Xmas shopping. Who is this person?

My knee has been getting the love and affection it deserves. Ice all day, lots of slow mobility exercises, PT, and positive energy. The swelling is significantly reduced and I am completely free of crutches. Nice one.

The European XC Champs were on today in Dublin. To think that my goal last year was to be ready for this event and here I am post-op dreaming again of things that seem destined never to happen. The team did solid, but with no disrespect because the lads would agree, they should have done better. I believed they would get a medal however there are no sure things in the world of cross country team competition. Mark Kennelly had a fantastic run, placing 8th, his highest ever in the event. Otherwise the lads ran below potential. Some sickness and injury hampering the build up. I feel especially bad for Mary Cullen, I am not sure what went wrong but I have no doubt on another day she would have medaled, if not won. And that is taking nothing away from Haley Yelling who ran inspired to take the win at 35 years of age. There is hope!

The guts of my packing is done, reflecting the level of boredom I have right now. I miss training. Even just getting on the bike for an hour easy is enough to burn off some energy. Now I am pro-active in doing things that I usually leave until the last minute. Living the normal life for a while can't hurt. Overall my outlook is pretty good. The reds lost again today but they and the gaffer still have my backing and trust. The optimism is still carrying through. And with my leg improving at such a rapid speed I may have to purposely leave my running gear here so to avoid temptation.

The dog days are indeed over, bring on the week,

Love Kelrock

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Knives Out

Little bit of a nightmare couple of days. Long story short; I had my surgery yesterday and after stopping back to the office to finish work while high on Percs I came back to P-Town without my house keys. Kim is gone to NZ so I was locked out. Had to stay in Coxy's which was very nice and comfortable but not exactly good recovery protocol. I went back to the office today to get my keys and I'm finally back home with ice on my elevated knee.

As for the actual surgery, it was awesome. Out-patient clinics are so much better than hospitals. Laid back, friendly and very comfortable. I had a good chat with the Doc in the OR before being knocked out. Is it strange that I thoroughly enjoy anesthesia? I was joking to the Doc that I was going to fight the count and as his laugh faded away the nurse came over and asked if I was feeling alright. Of course I was feeling alright, I was just waiting for the anesthesia to kick in. It was at that point that she alerted me to the fact that surgery was over and that anesthesia is unbeatable. It is very typical of me to challenge myself in almost every situation. Fighting anesthesia is no different and like every surgery before this it kicked my ass. This time however was very humorous. Maybe you had to be there.

There are 4 videos below out of 10 that were given to me. They provide a nice summary of the surgery. The tear was pretty bad and by the end you can see where the meniscus used to be and what I have left to protect me for the near future. The Doc and I chatted about getting my left knee done. The plan is to attempt a training cycle in 2010 and see how it goes. If I can deal with it I'll truck on but if not we will revisit the microfracture or OATS option and attempt to fix it.

Thank you for the kind comments and emails/phone calls. I am stupidly lucky to have friends that care. And as I fade away here on the couch to the sound of Editors while drinking 365 Raspberry soda I think about running in 2010 with excitement and a renewed sense of optimism.

Love Kel

Monday, December 7, 2009

Do You Wanna Know, Know That It Doesn't Hurt Me

Did a little bit of running today but not too much. Enough to make me very happy that I have only one more sleep until I get this 10mm chunk of meniscus out from the back of my knee. Positives to take from the recent ramp up in running are that my left knee, which has the real issue, can tolerate some level of running. The Doc told me this would be the case and he was right. I can now optimistically set goals, however minor, for 2010. And until training resumes I have travel and great times ahead. Meeting Frankie in London and hanging with the Lads in Drogheda. Lovely.

I came across Phantogram today. They are a duo from New York with a similar set up to Handsome Furs, all be it more laid back. The songs I've heard are all great and the below song has had more than one listen. Its called "Mouthful Of Diamonds" and is quite brilliant. I've also been paying the Def Star remix of Fences by Phoenix, reflecting my chilled mood.

Thank you for the kind emails of support heading in to yet another surgery,

Love Kel

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Perfect Day For Winter Athletics

PM: 100 Minutes Bar Biking
PM: 37 Minutes Run

Today we ushered in a new season of Bar Biking. What is Bar Biking you might ask. Well its exactly as it says. We ride bikes in a bar. Not any bar mind you, we ride in the Wild Colonial. It was the idea of Brian Lang (bar tender extrodinaire) last winter to bring our trainers and set up in the front bar and ride hard. We did it a couple of times and it was great so we kicked off season 2 today. It was only Brian and I due to the late call to make it happen but by January we hope to have 5 or 6 guys banging out workouts in the pub and consuming refreshing brews after (undoing all the good work). We did some reps today in a ride as you feel kind of buzz. Nothing too structured but a great workout nonetheless.

When I got home I chilled and listened to Boy Lilikoi about 10 times in a row while Pat watched the closing minutes of the game between the Patriots of New England and the Dolphins of Miami. He was displeased with the outcome. I was still flying high after the bar biking session so I joined Pat, Kim and Molly for their afternoon run. My knee was still sore from the irrational hour I ran in the freezing rain yesterday, however with the clock ticking down to Tuesday there was no stopping me putting on the tights for a jaunt around the streets on a cool but very still winter evening.

On Tuesday I will go under the knife so tomorrow will be my last run for about 6-8 weeks. I will do an hour easy. Blogging will be sporadic after that because I won't have much to say and I will be in Europe for 2 weeks. No one wants to hear how much it sucks to have to sit on ones arse and wait for the green light to do 15 minutes of no resistance bike riding. Not exactly training now is it?
Music news has been lacking because I spent the last 48 hours listening to the same song over and over again. I stopped to watch the last hour of Kill Bill Vol. 2 (amazing film). Now that its over, its back to Boy Lilikoi. If you want something different please make your way over to THIS link and download the compilation "Galactique Compilation Vol 2". The label is the work of my good Friend (Frankies older brother) Marc Darroch. A couple of his tracks are on their. Lots of different styles of music for snowy days and wine drinking.

On more of a commercial sounding tip I forgot how good the Fred Falke remix of Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" sounded. The track got a few repeat plays tonight. Perfect trainer song for raising energy levels and joy.

Love Kel

Friday, December 4, 2009

The World Goes And Flutters By

No training or mundane activity from today trumps hearing the new Jonsi track. This guy has a rare talent that completely floors me. I feel insignificant next to genius like this. Sigur Ros are a top 5 all-time band for me and listening to Jonsi solo brings out the same emotion. He is singing in English which is not something I have ever wished for (I thoroughly enjoy Hoplandic) but hearing the lyrics puts a massive smile on my face. I've said this before, but I remember seeing Sigur Ros for the first time in 2005. I was lost for words after the show and literally couldn't speak. The Opera House in Boston was such an amazing venue to see the band. Once we got outside I turned to my friend Shawn and told him that if a friend of mine couldn't find something positive or uplifting in the music of Sigur Ros I would struggle to remain friends with them. If they went to a live show and didn't feel moved I would actually question if they had any soul whatsoever. That is how good the live performance is. It seems an eternity since the last Sigur Ros album (only 18 months) and hearing this song reminds me of hearing "Ny Batteri" or "Hoppipolla" for the first time. It is amazing and I cannot wait for his album.

Love Kel

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Came The Last Night Of Sadness

AM: 30 Minutes Run
PM: 60 Minutes Trainer Ride

Another double day of running and biking. Only 6 days of running left before I go into an altered state while a small tool cuts away the last remaining bits of my meniscus. Lee and I ran Houghton's pond today and we had to peel off our shirts. It was 68 degrees but given the time of year it felt like 88 degrees. We were sweating bullets. Awesome. When I got home I did a very steady/hard hour on the trainer. I would have done 90 minutes but hunger took over and considering it was after 8 bells I needed to call it a night. I will be loading up the weekend in anticipation of it being my last hard training for a while. After the surgery I am heading home so training will be sparse. I am not going to fuss about it. My fitness heading into surgery is very good so I will enjoy the break and then actually pen some goals for 2010.

I am loving the "Van She" remake of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper". Van She have been consistently putting out joyful, shoegaze, electropop tracks for the last few years. It seems the while Montreal may be home to cutting edge indie rock, Sydney is home to electropop, post nu wave bands. This cover is really uplifting. Its been getting constant play on my iTunes tonight.

Peace and Love,


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Introducing Palace Players

An absolute belter of a show. Easily in the top three shows I've seen this year. Mew captured the emotion of the albums and brought the songs to life in a way that only brilliant bands can. I was literally blown away by the singing and the unison within the group. The temptation to go to NYC was very high but the rational side of me took over. Friendly Fires are calling my name on Friday night but not to sound like a complete running geek, I don't know if I can stand on my knee for another show. I woke up this morning, still on a high however, my knee was very swollen. It sucks ass but considering I have a massive tear in the back of the joint I shouldn't expect anything less.

I got in a run before the gig. A solid 5 miles on the T-Mill (no wonder my knee was sore) and a little core work. My mood has been bolstered lately with some good energy at work and the countdown to a trip back home to see frankie, family and friends. Positive day and very positive evening. Time to get some kip. Below are some videos that were taken from the show. I was front and center myself, but these were shot from the side of the stage. Brilliant.

Love Kel

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Comforting Sounds

AM: 90 Minutes Trainer Ride W/ SS Intervals
PM: 34 Minutes Easy Running

The day was devoted to listening to my old Mew records in anticipation of the show tomorrow night. No matter how often I go to see bands nothing can beat seeing a band for the first time. Its becoming more and more rare these days but Mew is one band I have managed to miss every time they toured.

I hit the trainer hard this morning for what seemed like a quick 90 minutes. After a warm up and single leg drills I did 2 x 15 minutes hard. The effort was about 7-8 and below threshold. But by the end of the second rep I was really pushing. The goal of each rep is to stay steady, in the same gear, and put out an effort that I could hold for an hour. A running equivalent might be 2 x 5k at goal 1/2 marathon pace. The running session would obviously be harder but to my heart and lungs its all work, and building fitness before the knee surgery.

In the PM I joined Kim and Molly for an easy afternoon run. The girls could have dropped me which reinforces the need to run. Cross training certainly keeps everything else fit and lean but the act of running cannot be replaced. My knee must be loving the mild torture I'm putting it through!

Couple of Mew songs below to celebrate the upcoming show,

Love Kel