It’s time for the second workout-specific playlist to assist in our quest to obtain our Best. Body. Ever. For this one I decided to go with the ever-popular activity of hiking. The great thing about hiking is the number of options this simple (and free!) workout presents: hike solo for some therapeutic solace or bring along a friend (canines included, of course!) for some company; and as far as pacing goes, you can set your own without anyone nagging you to slow down or go faster. And since hiking is an outdoor activity – unlike hitting the StairMaster in front a narcissistic floor-to-ceiling mirror at the gym – there is a wealth of scenery that only nature can provide. Or if you are in LA like me, the people watching is pretty great, too.

Please note that these are song suggestions for hiking – not necessarily songs for running on the hiking trails. I see those people sprinting up and down Runyon Canyon, showing off. We get it: you’re in better shape than the rest of us. No need to rub it in.

Also worth mentioning: these are songs for hiking. Not about hiking. That would be weird.

“Midnight City” by M83

“Midnight City” is an ethereal and hypnotic number brought to us by the French shoegazing band M83. It was released as part of the group’s critically acclaimed 2011 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (which was also included on the SongLyrics 100 Best Albums of 2011). This is what I said about the album at the time: “A sprawling dreamscape of electronica: this double album was a three year labor of love for M83’s Anthony Gonzalez and while it may feel a bit indulgent to some, the result is cosmic.”

Fun fact! This song has been widely used in conjunction with BBC ads promoting their upcoming coverage of the 2012 London Olympics. And if it’s good enough for Olympic fever, then it’s certainly good enough for my morning hike. USA! USA! USA!

“Midnight City” by M83

Memorable Lyrics

Waiting in a car
Waiting for a ride in the dark
Drinking in the lounge
Following the neon signs
Waiting for a roar
Looking at the mutating skyline
The city is my church
It wraps me in the sparkling twilight

“Bushwick Blues” by Delta Spirit

“Bushwick Blues” (Brooklyn, holla!) comes to us courtesy of the San Diego-based, multi-instrumental, soulful hybrid rock band, Delta Spirit. It was part of their second studio album – a real musical treasure - History from Below.

Fun fact! The album was based on the revisionist history book, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

“Bushwick Blues” by Delta Spirit

Memorable Lyrics

Hold on to my hand
Never let go
Never let go
We were just two kids acting tough
Then we grew up
Me, not so much

All the other guys that you’ve seen
are nothing compared to me
Because my love is strong
And my heart is weak
After all

“Start a War” by The National

The steady brick-by-brick build of sound, combined with the foreboding lyrics in this offering from the 2007 album, Boxer, is nothing short of brilliant. The narrator paints a bleak picture of resignation and loss that, when paired with the unpretentious melody, creates a palpable tension rarely heard in music these days. With each listen, another layer is revealed. Thought-provoking and emotionally resonant, this song is a good listen when hiking alone with your thoughts.

“Start a War” by The National Live, feat. Win Butler of Arcade Fire

Memorable Lyrics

We expected something, something better than before
We expected something more
Do you really think you can just put it in a safe behind a painting, lock it up and leave?
Do you really think you can just put it in a safe behind a painting, lock it up and leave?
Walk away now and you’re gonna start a war

“Lost and Found” by Katie Herzig

Katie Herzig is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter and current member of the prestigious Ten out of Tenn collective.  Her number “Lost and Found”, off of her fourth studio album The Waking Sleep, is an anthemic song filled with emotional buoyancy and not a single false note. The number has a propulsive energy which drives it forward and carries the listener right along with it.

“Lost and Found” by Katie Herzig

Memorable Lyrics

Somebody found me here
Somebody held my breath
Somebody saved me from the world you left
If you’re gonna cry my tears
If you’re gonna hold my breath
If you’re gonna let me see the sun you set
Oh, I am lost and found
Oh, I am lost and found

“Hoppípolla” by Sigur Rós

It’s impossible to describe the music of Sigur Rós without feeling like words themselves are not enough. Which is apt because, when it comes to the exquisite sound of this Icelandic post-rock band, a premium is placed on the communication of emotion, rather than on lyrics. Of course, simple but elegant lyrics are employed here, but they play second fiddle to the emotional landscape created by the music. “Hoppípolla” (translation: “jumping into puddles”) is just such a song. While the words are about reliving of and remembering the beauty of childhood innocence, the song when taken in its entirety, is utterly transcendent. You can try but you won’t find a better musical work to score your time among the trees.

 

“Hoppípolla (Music Video)” by Sigur Ros

Memorable Lyrics

Hoppípolla
I engum stígvélum
Allur rennvotur (rennblautur)
I engum stígvélum

Og ég fæ blóðnasir
En ég stend alltaf upp
(Hopelandic)

(English translation)

Wind in
and the smell of your hair
I hit as hard as I can
with my nose
jumping into a puddle
wearing no boots
completely soaked (dripping wet)
wearing no boots

And I get a nosebleed
but I’ll always stand up again
(hopelandic)

“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones 

In 1995, Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone, “That ["Gimme Shelter]‘s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse; the whole record’s like that.” He was speaking metaphorically, of course. The song was written by Jagger and Keith Richards and released 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War (not to mention great social unrest across the world). It’s also one of the greatest Rock ‘N Roll songs of all time. But if you want to be all literal with Jagger’s quote and you believe such things: the Mayans predicted that the world will end in 2012. So…

“Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones

Memorable Lyrics

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

“Die Young” by The Sweet Serenades

Swedish invasion! The Sweet Serenades is a duo formed in Stockholm comprised of Martin Nordvall and Mathias Näslund. The band’s influences include “great songs, broken hearts, sexual frustration and musical acts as Tom Waits, Clap your hands say yeah, Arcade Fire, The Strokes, [and] ACDC”. The guys refer to their sound as “Jungle Rock or Testosterone Pop”…whatever that means. But it’s good. This ditty, about the doomed romance between two young lovers, has an infectious energy that will get you moving on your hike when all you want to do is lay down and take a big nap.

“Die Young” by The Sweet Serenades

Memorable Lyrics

Your eyes, Im drawn in, your eyes.
You’re out of reach.
And I cant help myself.
Its a lie, we knew it all along.
Love is gonna die, were gonna die young.

“Buckets of Rain” by Bob Dylan

Every hike needs a little Dylan. This number, off of the iconic 1975 album Blood on the Tracks, has a wealth of songs for private listening – from “Shelter From the Storm” to “Tangled Up in Blue”. But it’s the heartbreaking yet emotionally sober lyrics, combined with the graceful simplicity of the melody, that puts “Buckets of Rain” above the rest.

“Buckets of Rain” by Bob Dylan

Memorable Lyrics

Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well
I’ll do it for you honey baby
Can’t you tell?

“Má Vlast: Vltava (The Moldau River)” composed by Bedřich Smetana and performed by St. Petersburg RTV Symphony Orchestra & Stanislav Gorkovenko

Now this may be my personal preference, but I think every hike needs a bit of lyric-free music. Whether you go for some high-brow classical or instrumental post-rock, it can be a breath of fresh air. Consider it your musical “quiet time” for your brain. “Smetana: Má Vlast” is among my absolute favorite classical pieces and with one listen you will know why. This gorgeous piece was also used in the controversial film, Tree of Life; but if that movie wasn’t your cup of tea, don’t hold it against the song. Seriously.

 

 

“If I Ever Leave This World Alive” by Flogging Molly

I love these exuberant Irish-American post-grunge bastards (she said, lovingly). They may remind you of The Pogues with their celtic infused punk rock sound, but make no mistake – this is a band with a voice all its own. Their songs are feisty and always carry just the right amount of political and social awareness. The list of great songs from Flogging Molly is plentiful indeed, but “If Ever Leave This World Alive” holds a special place in my heart.

“If I Ever Leave This World Alive (Live)” by Flogging Molly

Memorable Lyrics

She says I’m okay; I’m all right,
Though you have gone from my life
You said that it would
Now everything should be alright