True Story: I Went to a David Duchovny Concert

Back in the halcyon days of early November, while we were still basking in the glow of a Cubs World Series win, David Duchovny tweeted his North American tour schedule. (I know, I know, I’ll give you a moment to deal with that sentence.) I put out the call to find my other “ladies of a certain age” who needed to share this experience with me.

And I found my people quickly.

Five days later, the U.S. elected a new president and my attention was focused elsewhere. (Has it really only been three months? I feel like I’ve aged YEARS!) Luckily, my friends were on the ball:

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Run 10K: A New Challenge

Almost five months after I ran my first organized race and swore I’d never run anything again, I’m back to training.

It started with a tweet from the Bay Bridge that the her new span will Labor Day weekend to people instead of cars. There are plans for a walk, a bike ride and two races, a 10k and a half marathon. I’d been looking at the Run 10k app for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to break it out. I don’t think I’ll ever be a runner, but this will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. While I could settle for a leisurely stroll across the new bridge span, I thought this would be a great chance to challenge myself and make history at the same time.

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day, so I knew I had to take advantage of it. One of the hardest parts of training last year was having enough good weather days on days when I had the time to run. The app recommends that if you’ve already completed their Run 5K app that you start on Week Five. Well, I’m no overachiever in this area, so I was quite happy to start with Week One, Day One. I figured the easy pace would give me a confidence boost if nothing else. I was half right.

The first week is 30 seconds of running and four and half minutes of walking. I was barely getting into my stride when the man in my ear would say “Walk now.” As it was a gorgeous day in February, there were plenty of other runners on my trail and it was very difficult to quell my competitive side and let them run past me. By the middle of my playlist, I decided to go ahead and run the entirety of Neil Jackson’s Gonna Have to Change. It got a little run toward the end, but I finally felt like I was getting somewhere.

I finished Day One rather easily, tacking an extra minute of running on at the end, so the cooldown would feel worth it. Another two days of that should be fairly easy to accomplish and I don’t feel the pressure to get the training done in a particular timeframe for fear I’ll lose my progress. There are 29 weeks between now and the opening of the Bridge, so I feel no need to rush through this process. I know I can get there and I know that if I need to repeat a week or lose a week due to travel or illness, I’ll still be ready.

And it wouldn’t be a run if I didn’t make a playlist. This is essentially the same as my last week of Run 5K, with the addition of Neil Jackson and rearranging a few things. It was a bit too long, but I made it work.

Initial Impressions of Neil Jackson’s debut album, “The Little Things”

There’s a quote from my favorite movie, Playing By Heart, that goes “Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.” I feel the same way when it comes to writing about music. I’m not a professional critic, but I am a singer and I know what I like. And I like Neil Jackson (and not just because he’s hot and British).

The Little Things (Album Cover)This morning, I was running late, but the bus was running even later, so I ended up walking 30 blocks, most of it uphill, to get to work. This is after I blow-dried my hair and spent some time I actually trying to put together an outfit. I got to work, sweaty with windblown hair, but in a surprisingly good mood because I’d used the walk to listen to “The Little Things.”

I’ve followed Neil’s music for about a year now, back when he was just posting videos of him singing and playing his guitar in a little room on YouTube. (I guess that makes me a Hipster Neil Jackson Fan? Ha!) Because this was my introduction to him as a musician, I think he sounds best when you can hear his fingers, plucking the guitar strings as he croons the lyrics. His voice is smooth and rich, a soothing balm on my soul.

1. Holding a Candle
This was the first single (and video) from the album, but I think it’s the biggest outlier from his usual style. It’s more produced than any of the other tracks and even his accent fades when he sings. I enjoy the lyrics and melody, but I don’t think it’s indicative of the rest of the album.

2. Drive
The lyrics on this one weren’t my favorite, but I’ll listen to it over and over again for the lead guitar line. The faint bongo drums in the background give this a California feel, and I can easily imagine driving down PCH in the sunshine.

3. I’ll Be Your Home
As Neil tweeted about his experience recording the album, I was most curious about how the songs I was familiar with from YouTube would sound when properly recorded and mixed. The addition of a piano to the guitar helps balance the vocal effects, making it feel more produced. The last 30 seconds where everything drops out, except the piano, is exceptionally beautiful.

4. Hear in Time
It’s hard to keep the grin off my face as I listen to this little ditty. The pickin’ guitar and the rhythmic clapping just make me happy. It’s damn catchy and I know I’ll have this one in my head for a while now.

5. Save Me Tonight
Sad, whispery Neil with a guitar may be my favorite version of him. I really like the way the orchestra sneaks in gradually as the song goes along. There are moments when it overwhelms his subtle vocals, but the melodies are so pretty that I don’t really mind.

6. Gonna Have to Change
And we’re back to peppy and catchy, which just makes me smile (as does the surprise falsetto before the chorus). Again, this feels very California (shout out to the 405!) and I see the video taking place on the beach with lots of laughing, Frisbee and frolicking in the waves. His vocals feel very American, almost country, especially the little laugh at the end.

7. The Little Things
Neil’s British accent is back in full force on this track, which is fantastic. The guitar lines are even better than the YouTube version and his vocals are smoother, drawing you into the story of his Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I could have done without some of the other filler instruments, but that’s probably because I’m used to the stripped down version.

8. Got Your Own Shoes
I had to laugh at Neil’s use of “groovy” in the chorus (don’t worry, I had a similar reaction when Matt Morrison used “demagogue” in one of his songs), but then it gets sad, and I felt a little bad. It’s not my favorite track, as it has a lot going on, vocally and instrumentally. I’d be curious to hear the story behind this one.

9. Falling in Love
This is my new favorite song! It’s got a great jazzy piano/snare drum backing to Neil’s whispery vocal, evoking visions of dancing in a smokey club in a slinky black dress with a beautiful man. The trumpet solo in the bridge is unexpected, but it fits with the theme, even if it is a bit louder than the mood previously set.

10. When the World Was New
I absolutely adore the guitar line in this song and I love that Neil kept this one so simple, just acoustic guitar and his vocals. It’s the truest to the YouTube version, and yet the quality is just SO much better.

11. Rocket to Mars
This is the second single off the album and the video will be released next week. It seems much more indicative of Neil’s style, while incorporating the orchestra. And it only seems appropriate that the album end with a sweet guitar line.

I was already a fan, but the album has lived up to my expectations in almost every way (still needs “All That I Am!”). I’m hoping that there will be a live tour or at least a few shows in California because this music begs to be heard live. In the meantime, the digital download of Neil’s album is on sale at his website for $8.00 ($1.99 less than Amazon and iTunes), making it a great deal while putting a few more pence in Neil’s pocket.

Music: In Which I Am a Neil Jackson Fangirl

It’s no secret that I love me some Neil Jackson. I mean, seriously, have you seen him? When I first started to follow him on Twitter earlier this year, he linked to his YouTube account of him playing guitar and singing. I admit I had a little trepidation when I first clicked over to watch, not knowing what to expect. But it turns out he’s AWESOME, just a guy and his guitar, singing right to my heart. (You may remember my flailing here.)

Since then, Neil has recorded his first album, The Little Things, which comes out February 4th. You can hear a preview of each of the songs on Amazon (but you should buy it from his website).

Last week, the first single, “Holding a Candle” came out with a video:

The video also features Chelsea Hobbs (aka Emily from Make It or Break It), which was fabulous to see. I’ll admit I was a little squicked to see them together as the couple, since the last time I saw them on screen together, she was playing MUCH younger and he was playing her coach. But she’s ridiculously adorable and it’s easy to see why Video!Neil would be in the love with her. The lip-sync at the beginning of the video is off (and a bit distracting), but by the time, he gets to the chorus, it’s back together. The video storyline reminded me a lot of Easton Corbin’s “Lovin’ You is Fun”, with the guy singing about the pretty girl he loves, but this is clearly more grown-up. I also LOVED the improvised shot of Neil backlit in the rain.

I’m disappointed that my favorite song, “All That I Am,” isn’t on this album, but I’ve been promised it will be on the next one. That said, I’ve already listened to “Holding a Candle” enough times now that I can sing along, so clearly, it’s fantastic as well! Is it February yet?!

Run 5K: Week Five is a Wrap!

Another week of training has wrapped! Unlike Week Four, I’m not exactly buoyed by this, but I am determined to see it through.

It started out promising. My former boss, current co-worker, A, came over and we went running together, using the Week Five, Day One program. It’s the first time I’ve tried running with someone else during this training program and the first time I’ve run with anyone since college. Turns out, it’s not the greatest idea for me. I’m too competitive to go as slow as I need to complete the run segments without pain. Also, we couldn’t stop chatting about the Olympics (about which you know I have OPINIONS), so that took up energy that I probably didn’t have. I had to stop during the last run segment to catch my breath, which was embarrassing and disheartening, but A took it in stride. We ended the run with a trip to a local cafe and more leisurely catching up session. The run may not have been as successful as I would have liked, but the afternoon was a win for sure!

A few days later, I had better luck with Week Five, Day Two. My playlist synced up perfectly and while I didn’t love the long run segments, but the warm weather and the sunshine definitely helped me endure. I didn’t go as far as I did with A, but I didn’t have to stop either, which I counted as a major win. I was feeling good about my progress when I was felled by an evil cold on Friday that lasted all weekend. In addition to making me a bit of a drama queen, it also put off my training for a week, while I regained the ability to breathe through my nose.

Today, I didn’t have to use a tissues all day, so I knew it was time to finish up Week Five. The weather wasn’t ideal, but if you wait for ideal weather in San Francisco, you’ll be waiting a long time. Today’s program was two long run sections, separated by a 2-minute walk. I managed to make it through both without stopping (again, my playlist was FLAWLESS), but it really put the reality of running a 5K into perspective. At the end of the second run segment (10 mins), I was ready to QUIT. But I know that I’ll be running at least 3 times (and probably more like 4 times) that long when I’m actually running my race. I definitely need to concentrate on my music choice to keep me motivated.

One month till Race Day!

And my awesome playlist: