So I’m in the early stages of getting back in the gym groove. With all this dying in the celebrity world lately, and all this talk about failing hearts, it was time to drag my sorry ass back into some sort of routine. I started last week.

You see, I’ll turn 39 next month…
I eat like a horse.
I love Mexican food.
I love pizza and wings.
I love ginormous plates of spaghetti with garlic bread.
I love Crunch Berries, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cookie Crisp, and many other cereals of the junk variety.
I enjoy an occasional beer or four.
And I haven’t exercised regularly in a good 5 months.

I’m 6’4″, and roughly 270 pounds. 250 is my target, though I guess my optimal weight is less than that.

Point being, I’m scared shitless of dying, and I’d like to stick around for a while with my wife and two daughters. Hence the self-ass-kicking that is the gym. The one highlight of my gym experience – like many of you – is the chance to hear and feel music in a totally different perspective. The pairing of energetic music with exercise is a match made in heaven, and is always something to look forward to.

In my few trips to the gym this go-around, these are some of the tunes that have kept the blood pumping. Wish me luck in this latest endeavor, and may the motivation stick around for good this time. By the way, that corporate logo up there? There’s something to it. It’s such a simple & powerful mantra, and it’s what I tell myself over and over when I even think about blowing it all off…

[Click on the album covers to check ’em out.]

LotusAge of Inexperience (mp3) – The only song I can think of that has a chorus of “I stone teenagers for fun” – at least that’s what I hear. This is a great album. If you like electronica, funk, with a bit of that jam band vibe, you’ll like it too.

Velvet RevolverSucker Train Blues (mp3) – Would you believe I hadn’t heard either of the Velvet Revolver albums until a few days ago? “Sucker Train Blues” has everything I love about the Guns n Roses Use Your Illusion era.

Aceyalone feat. Jah OrahMaster (mp3) – Indie L.A. rapper’s reggae/rap fusion record. Jah love.

Reverend Horton Heat Marijuana (mp3) – I won’t endorse the mary jane before or during the act of exercise. But the song? Absolutely. God Bless the Rev (and Jimbo).

RJD2Sweet Piece (Cadence Weapon Remix) [mp3] – This sweet little groove will make you move schmoove.

The Year in (Ick)Music – Pete’s List

It always takes some work on my part to parse out what was released this year, because I’m always discovering great music from years past too. But I’ve done it (and thrown in some pre-2008 tunes – I’m sneaky that way).

So without further ado, here’s my list! – Pete

Albums of the Year

1. Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend :: The hipsters give this band a lot of shit – why, I’m not sure. But I’m not a hipster, I’m just a dude who knows a catchy, original album when I hear it, and Vampire Weekend’s debut was one of my top albums of the year. “A-Punk”, “Campus”, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”. Mansard Roof”, “Oxford Comma”… this album is full of great songs.

2. My Morning JacketEvil Urges
:: I love variety, and these guys bring it with every album. On ‘Evil Urges’, we get Jim James’ best Prince impression (“Highly Suspicious”), and some deep down and soulful grooves that reach back to 70’s soft rock and soul. Standout tunes: ‘Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream, Part One”, “Thank You Too!”, “The Librarian”, “Smokin from Shootin”.

3. What Laura SaysThinks and Feels :: It was refreshing (and surprising) to be so blown away by a local band. Tempe, Arizona’s What Laura Says is on the rise. Their label debut, ‘Thinks and Feels’ is retro psychedelic indie rock. With influences ranging from late 60’s psychedelia to Simon & Garfunkel to Dr. Dog and Ben Folds, this is an album I can play straight through 10 times and find something different every time. Beautiful harmonies and melodies, and a lot of surprises.

4. Cadence WeaponAfterparty Babies :: Edmonton rapper and former Pitchfork writer Rollie Pemberton aka Cadence Weapon has one of the most unique sounds out there. On ‘Babies’, Cadence lays down his quirky rhymes over techno grooves.

5. Okkervil RiverThe Stand Ins:: Led by my favorite of the bunch, ‘Lost Coastlines”, this album has not left my iPhone/iPod since I bought the album.

And growing on me fast:

Fleet FoxesFleet Foxes :: Appalachian church / folk music. You’ve undoubtedly seen this album on a bunch of top album lists. Initially, I wasn’t blown away, but this is an album that creeps up on you. Standout tune: “White Winter Hymnal”.

Songs of the Year:

1. “Strange Overtones” (mp3) – David Byrne :: “Joyous” is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this song. I first heard it on one of Radio Free Wohlman‘s podcasts earlier in the year. And then I saw Mr. Byrne come out on stage in Austin, he and his band dressed in white, and perform the hell out of this song in the show opener. This tune gives me goosebumps and doggone it, it makes me happy.

2. “Get Better Soon” (mp3) – What Laura Says :: An outlaw country shuffle of a tune. Great opening line: “Don’t worry about me, it’s you that needs the help”.

3. “Thank You Too!” (mp3) – My Morning Jacket :: My favorite from their ‘Evil Urges’ album. Laid back, smooth – exuding that late 70’s rock n’ soul vibe.

4. “Sausalito” (mp3) – Conor Oberst :: Like MMJ’s Jim James, Conor’s another one of those younger prolific MF’ers, and I really enjoy what he has to offer. “Sausalito” has that country roots feel I love so much, and it’s a pretty damn infectious tune.

5. “Oh Please” (mp3) – Jon and Roy :: Jon and Roy are one of those great under the radar singer/songwriter talents. They call Victoria, British Columbia home, and sometime this year, I must have got an email, and I stumbled across “Oh Please”. I love this tune. Simple. Soft. Real.

Cover of the Year

Creep” (video) – Prince – Live at Coachella :: Prince has done some cool covers (Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”), and some not so cool (‘I Can’t Make You Love Me”, “Everyday Is A Winding Road” – a Sheryl Crow cover on a Prince record? Come on dude..), but his version of Radiohead’s “Creep” was something fresh and exciting to hear – even with the re-worked lyrics that changed the feel of the song. I would have loved to be at this Coachella show, or, as Prince calls it, “Co-A-Chella”.

Disappointments of the Year

John MellencampLife Death Love and Freedom :: I gave this album a few serious tries. I’m a big admirer of Mellencamp, and I was really looking forward to it, especially after hearing the lead single “My Sweet Love”. But I found it too dark, and too in need of hooks and melodies, which JM is surely capable of. It’s a rootsy, bluesy, morose record, and has received some stellar reviews. It’s John’s “dark” record. But truth be told, it didn’t do a thing for me. For dark Mellencamp, I’ll take “Jackie Brown”.

No Boss in Phoenix :: I’m still at a loss as to why Bruce’s Magic tour, with two full U.S. legs, totally skipped Phoenix, Arizona – the 8th largest metro area in the USA. Granted, most of the time I feel like I’m in a cultural wasteland with no soul, but that’s beside the point. I did travel to Anaheim for a show, though, and got to see Tom Morello shred it up with Bruce on “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.

Best Live Show of the Year

George Michael, June 22, U.S. Airways Arena, Phoenix :: Say what you will, but George’s show here in Phoenix was my live highlight of the year. Ol’ George is now back to his old ways (amphetamines and public toilets and whatnot), but as anyone who saw this tour can attest to, George was in prime form. His 80’s classics, his humble and genuine stage presence, his stage setup (Giant Screen!), all made for a show that ranked 10 out of 10 in my book. I was riding a GM high for weeks after this.

Band of Horses, September 28, Austin City Limits Music Festival :: After discovering the greatness of Band of Horses in January, I was looking forward to their ACL set from the moment I saw it was scheduled. I lingered around the stage all afternoon and made my way front and center when it was time for their set. I was not disappointed. Ben Bridwell and company rocked out with great tunes like “The Funeral”, “The Weed Song”, “No One’s Gonna Love You”, “Is There a Ghost”… And just as cool, the next morning at the Austin Airport, I met Ben Bridwell and told him just how great his music is.

Other great shows this year: Los Lobos, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Citizen Cope, Erykah Badu, John Fogerty, Gogol Bordello.

Best New (to me) Artist/Song:

Band of Horses :: 2008 was, for me, Year of the Horses. It took me until January 2008 to discover their incredible two albums, ‘Everything All the Time’ and ‘Cease to Begin’. In September, I got to see them front and center at Austin City Limits Music Festival. Ben Bridwell (above) is one of my new musical heroes. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in the future (right now, they’re recording their third album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama).

Jenny Lewis :: I may not dig Jenny as much as my five year old daughter, but I was happy to discover her music this year – particularly her album with the Watson Twins, ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’. This video to “Rise Up With Fists” is what initially reeled me and my daughter in.

Missed the Boat” (mp3) – Modest Mouse :: “While we’re on the subject, can we change the subject now…” Another of my most listened to songs of the year. I love Isaac Brock’s voice, and on this tune, James Mercer pops in for some sweet backup vox as well. Great song that I didn’t hear until this year.

Just Can’t Forget” (mp3) – Jonny and Josh :: I stumbled across it on MySpace early in the year. Someone had it streaming on their profile. Jonny and Josh are singer/songwriters in the Denver area, and they wrote a song here that connected with me immediately. Dark and melodic, with a rhythm and hook that sticks with you.

Nobody Knows” (mp3) – Faces :: I’ve discovered a lot of the Faces catalog this year, and this song is one of the best. Rod Stewart and Ronnie Lane (I believe?) share vocal duties here.

“Diner” – Martin Sexton :: Quick and catchy, with that old timey feel.

“Lover’s Waltz” – A.A. Bondy :: A warm, pleading, gentle tune.

“The Story” – Brandi Carlile :: I heard this about a gajillion times during the Olympics, but it didn’t get old. Really a great pop song, and a great voice.

Comin’ Straight Outta…Edmonton?

I came across Cadence Weapon last week on Fluxblog. Cadence Weapon is an 18 yr old rapper / producer from Edmonton, Alberta. Yes, Edmonton. I didn’t know they rolled so hard up there, but judging by CW’s style, I think they do. Now I’m not as plugged into the hip hop game as I was say, back in – oh – 1989. I mean I’m far more likely to listen to Eric B and Rakim or Schoolly D than Tupac, Biggie, Lil Jon, or any of the many Lils. But Cadence Weapon gives me hope. The tracks and beats that back him up are funky as hell, and make this white boy bob his head. His rapping is smooth and cool. And that name – Cadence Weapon – cool name.

Cadence Weapon, from this 34 year old white boy in the Arizona desert, you go on with yo bad self son.

Cadence Weapon – Sharks (mp3)
Cadence Weapon – Oliver Square (mp3)

Cadence Weapon Official Site, where you can buy his music.
Check out more of his tunes on Soundclick.