Been meaning to write for a while now.
I ran my first 5K since Thanksgiving 2019 last weekend. It supported the local high school’s Boosters Club, which meant there were lots of fit teenage athletes on hand to fry my middle-aged ass. I beat a couple of ’em, though.
The pandemic and associated weight gain have added (ulp!) two minutes to my 5K time. On the bright side, I am still able to finish a 5K in half my age; it’s just a much nearer thing than it was the last time I did it.
Later that same day I went apple picking and nature-walking in the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts. It was nine different kinds of awesome.
Spent much of the past 36 hours in Hartford, Connecticut. It’s kinda sad how slow and closed-up the downtown gets after about 6:30 p.m. (If you go overnight? Bring your own food. Not really joking on that.) I’m led to believe that’s not just a pandemic thing; they’ve always rolled up the carpets early there.
The musical highlight of the trip was rediscovering my copy of The Darcys’ AJA.
The Darcys are a Toronto art-rock band who, nine years ago (!), released a heavily rearranged track-by-track cover of Steely Dan’s Aja. I believe it was a free download back in the day, so of course I grabbed it, but hadn’t taken it out in a while.
If you can stand the notion of the almighty Dan being irreverently tampered with, AJA has quite a bit to recommend it.
The cover of “Peg,” in particular, carried me almost all the way back home from Connecticut on repeat. A totally different vibe but it grabs in its own way. Check out the harmonized voices that supply the familiar bridge after the first verse (it was instrumental the last time you heard it), and the dissonant chiming electric piano and guitar behind the verses, and the drums that remind you that a properly used hi-hat is one of the great weapons of rock n’ roll.
(If any Dan scholars in the audience want to explain to me what “Peg” is “about,” that would be welcomed, as I am not much closer to knowing. I believe Becker and Fagen’s liner notes describe it as a man “admonishing a lost love,” but Seventies B&F were never reliable narrators. It sounds to me like a guy talking in his head to a movie actress he’s never met and probably never will … and what he’s saying isn’t especially coherent either.)
My second favorite thing on the album is probably the title track — a lush jazz mini-symphony in its original form, a feverish slow-motion stroll across barbed wire in this one:
I suppose I should really check out their original material sometime. No hurry — it’s only been nine years. Maybe the next time I find myself in Hartford with time on my hands…