I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not necessarily what my favorite song, album or band is, but what criteria go into making a decision like that.

This may sound a little Rob Gordon of me, but here goes my definition of what qualifies as each.

Favorite Song

This can — and often does — change frequently. For most people. You find that new “jam” and listen to it 80,000 times a week until it wears out. You play it until you know the lyrics by heart, can hear the melodies in your head even when you’re not listening to it, and you’ve noticed every subtle nuance of the singer’s breathing.

But the question that often comes to mind: does your favorite song need to be from your favorite band/artist or on your favorite album?

For me, it’s a no. My favorite song can be from a completely random artist or band, separate from my favorite albums of all time.

How? Glad you asked.

Right now, my favorite song is a toss up between James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go” and Queen’s “Somebody To Love”. Queen’s song may be — in my opinion — the most perfect song ever written. It has harmonies and crescendos and excellent lyrics. It rises and falls, it builds you up and settles you back down. And it’s got Freddie Mercury, which is hard to beat. James Arthur’s song, on the other hand, has an incredibly story to it. For me, that’s an important part of a good song – telling me a story. As a creator of content, stories are important to me.

That said, neither James Arthur or Queen are my favorite artist, nor do either of them hold a position in my list of top albums.

The reason for that is actually quite simple. Keep reading and you’ll find out why.

Favorite Album

In order to be a favorite album— or, for me, it’s a top five list of albums— it has to be a solid album from start to finish. The songs need to flow into one another in a sense-able fashion. Every track has to be listenable. You can’t have a favorite album that you like every song except for one or two.

“Say You Won’t Let Go” is on Jame Arthur’s album called “Back from the Edge.” Is it a good album? Yes. Do I love every single track on it? No. There’s a few I could live without.

Same applies to Queen’s “A Day At The Races.” Does it have some absolutely amazing songs? Yes. Are there some I could never hear again and not care? Yes.

So what’s my favorite album then? Like I said, I have a top five list. It doesn’t change, as nothing’s ever bumped one of these albums from it.

  • Boston by Boston
  • Metropolis Pt 2: Scenes from a Memory by Dream Theater
  • Letters by Butch Walker
  • Candlebox by Candlebox
  • Ugly by Life of Agony

Favorite Band/Artist

Much like a favorite album needs to have all good songs on it, a favorite band or artist follows the same thought process.

Every album the band/artist puts out has to be good. Perhaps not perfect (or they’d end up on the Favorite Album list), but good. Listenable. Enjoyable. There has to be an overall good sensation from listening to any and every album that he/she/they release.

This, as you can imagine, gets tough. Many bands put out an excellent first album but then suffer from the “sophomore slump.” A second album isn’t always nearly as good as the first a band puts out. There’s a lot of pressure from record labels, the artist themselves, society, etc. to put out a good second album. This often leads to a disappointing follow-up to their debut.

Up until the last few years, I always knew who my favorite bands were. I had a few and I toggled back and forth between them. As of right now, I’m not really sure who that is. Let me explain why I’m straying from my all time favorites.

Dream Theater.  Fourteen studio albums. Twenty+ live albums/DVDs/performances. I own them all. I love most of their music. However, their last album (“The Astonishing”) didn’t hit home with me. It’s a concept album (much like my beloved Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory), but it just didn’t work for me.

From Wikipedia: “The Astonishing is set in a dystopian future United States and follows the Ravenskill Rebel Militia in their efforts to defy the Great Northern Empire of the Americas using the magical power of music.”

It just missed the mark for me.

Life of Agony. Five studio albums. Five+ live albums/DVDs/performances. Mostly great. Some of my previous favorite songs were on some of their earlier albums. Some of their lyrics helped me through a lot of my growing up in my teen years.

But their last album (“A Place Where There’s No More Pain”) — after a 12 year break — just did not hit the mark with me. Is it great to have them back? Yes, because I feel it may lead to another album that I really enjoy. But this one didn’t do it for me. I find there’s hardly any tracks I seek out on it, none that really hit me in the heart, and none that I feel I couldn’t live with never hearing again.

Tool. Four albums. (A fifth is supposedly in the works).  “Undertow” and “Ænima” are both incredible albums. I still remember someone playing “Ænima” for me for the first time in high school when it came out. It changed me.

But when “Lateralus” came out, it wasn’t the same. There’s some good songs, but it doesn’t move me as a collection of work. There’s some weird stuff on the album, too. “Eon Blue Apocalypse”, “Mantra”, “Ticks & Leeches” and “Triad” just don’t jive for me.

Same applies to “10,000 Days”. There’s a few great songs on this album, but overall it doesn’t mesh for me as a whole album.

Hopefully, their next album will be great again, though it’s tough to say at this point.

So, I don’t think I have a favorite band right now. I know that’s sort of anti-climactic after over a thousand words of me rambling. But it’s true. I have bands and artists that I really love and enjoy most of what they put out. But I don’t have that one that really stands out.

If — gun to head — I’m forced to choose, though, I’d pick Dream Theater. After 14 studio albums, I guess I can forgive one blemish and pretend it doesn’t exist. They’re in the studio now working on another album, so hopefully they’ll make up for it.

What about you? What’s your favorite song, album and band/artist? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!

I got a new mount for my phone and upgraded Strava (the app I use to track my times and performance) to their Premium plan, so I could use their Live Segments feature.

Live Segments — well, let me back it up, first. A segment is a section of your route. Sometimes very short, sometimes long, sometimes the entire route. Many other Strava users configure them and sometimes you create your own.

When you go on your ride, Strava compares your time for the segment against not only yourself but others who’ve ridden the same segment.  Then when you’re done, you can compare yourself to others – even professionals. It’s both amazing and infuriating because there’s no way I’ll ever beat some of these folks.

Live Segments is a feature wherein, on your phone screen, it pops up and tells you that you’re approaching one of your segments. Then, when you start the segment, it tells you your PR (personal record) and that the segment has started.

This is what it looks like on your phone:

On the left is the “You’re getting close” indicator. The middle is complex but it breaks down to your time in the top left corner, how far along you are in the segment in the top right corner, your +/- time from your own PR (+ means you’re beating it, – means you’re slower than your PR) and the red circle with the crown in it is the KOM (King of the Mountain, the fastest person on that segment).

On my route, I decided to go to the bike trail, hit the end parking lot, then come back, rather than go my entire route. I just wanted to test the segments feature.

The first live segment that popped up was right up the street and it motivated me to peddle harder and faster than before. There’s something about knowing you can beat yourself that really pushes you. Or at least it did for me.

I ended up PR’ing every segment of the route on the way there. And since I’d never come back on the trail, I hit some new segments and got PRs from them (even though it was my first ride, it’s still a PR).

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:09:08 01:04:34 15.16 14.09 28.86 534.78
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

And here’s my PRs from inside the ride:

The ones without the little PR icons are either because they’re new segments to me or because another Strava rider notified Strava that the segment was “hazardous”. Since they think the segment is potentially dangerous, they don’t show you numbers by default, so you’re not competing in a segment that could be harmful to you in some way. They try to not encourage you for those segments. But if you click into them and agree to their waivers, you can see your scores, which I did. You just can’t see them on the screen I’m showing above.

Strava Premium offers many other features, such as comparing times by age group, a live beacon so you can let people know where you are while you’re riding, in case you get hurt, personalized coaching and training plans, and better analysis and metrics on your rides. It comes with a price tag of $59.99 a year and is available at strava.com/premium

So far, I’m enjoying the extra push to beat my own scores. I know I’ll likely never be KOM for my segments, but beating myself is reward enough for me!

I mapped out a new 25 mile route yesterday before heading out on my ride and due to a tiny “this street sign is pointing the wrong way” incident that caused me to go down the wrong road, I ended up going 26.6 miles in total.

It’s a new distance record for me and I PR’d all segments I’d done before (though most of the segments on this ride were new)!

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:53:07 01:50:05 26.64 14.52 37.58 910.10
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

I’m going to do the same route today again to see if I can PR some of my times I set yesterday. It’s a nice route that starts off with about 6 miles on a bike trail that’s only about 2 miles away.

I can’t remember the last time I wished it to rain as much as I did on this ride. The humidity was hovering around 85%, to the point where I felt like I was riding through the rain, even though it wasn’t raining.

The route was a little different than last time I did it, since I didn’t go through Callahan State Park (which I can’t do now, since I’m on a road bike). So it’s a little further than last time.

This time:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:29:57 01:28:41 20.80 14.07 37.80 717.85
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Last time:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:50:25 01:42:32 19.69 11.52 38.25 775.59
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Quite faster, even though it’s over 2 miles longer. (I think it’s actually closer to 24 miles, but Strava miscalculated the distance, which seems to be a common problem people complain about with their app.)

I also PR’d every segment on the ride, except the 4 new ones that I’d never ridden before and one segment that they deemed “hazardous” because it’s down such a steep hill, so they don’t allow competition on it.

Pretty happy with my new bike, overall. Expensive, but worth it in the end, because I can go farther faster. So, while I spent a lot of money on it, I’ll make up for that in getting time back in my day (over time), as I value my time quite high.

I’m also thrilled to report that there’s been no numbness (still) in my right ring finger that had been falling asleep when riding the mountain bike. A double win there; faster times, no pain!

I did my longer route today (almost 20 miles on the new bike). Out of the 8 segments on the ride, I PR’d 6 of them and missed the other 2 by 6 seconds and 3 seconds. So close!

Here’s my ride:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:20:36 01:20:19 19.56 14.61 42.28 712.27
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

versus my last ride on the mountain bike

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:48:28 01:45:51 19.32 10.95 36.24 1,007.55
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Cut a bunch of time, went a bunch faster and feel a lot better.

So my last ride, as we know, took me through Callahan State Park and down a big ass hill, which caused me to break my back brake (say that 5 times fast!).

The cost of the repair, plus a tune up to fix some issue I was having with the gearing on my old bike was about 40% the cost of a new (road) bike, so I bit the bullet yesterday and bought a new bike, even though the Schwinn mountain bike is less than a year old. It’s my fault, really. I bought the wrong bike for the type of riding I ended up doing.

Here’s the old bike, a Schwinn Protocol 1.0 (stock photo):

Here’s the new bike, a Trek Domane ALR 4 (stock photo):

The ride was a little rougher on the new bike, which is expected since it doesn’t have as many shocks on it as the mountain bike (for obvious reasons). The seat is a little harder than I’d like (I think I just need some better bike shorts). But man the ride is so much better, so much faster, so much smoother. The gears are making a little bit of a grinding sound when I go into a lower gear, so I’ll bring it back into the shop for them to take a look.

The thing I’m happiest about – aside from my improved times – is that there’s no numbness in my hands or fingers. With the Schwinn, my right hand – specifically the tip of my right ring finger – would fall asleep when riding. Presumably, because I was postured funny or hitting a nerve in some weird way. Though I did a shorter ride that I have been doing to test it out, there’s no numbness at all.

Here’s the activity feed from Strava for my ride this morning:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
00:52:36 00:52:15 12.95 14.88 34.45 450.46
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

And here’s the same route the last time I rode it on my Schwinn:

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:07:42 01:05:42 12.91 11.79 31.09 339.24
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Comparing just the overall times, I shaved 20% on the total time.

And, according to Strava’s in-depth analysis, I set a PR (Personal Record) for every segment (a small part of the overall route) on this ride:

I’m so beyond thrilled with my test ride this morning and can’t wait for the next ride!

Apparently, my route planner thought it’d be fun to take me into a state park, through ankle deep mud, up a hill that was way too steep to ride, and then down a hill so steep and full of rocks that I broke my rear brake trying to stop.

So, I’ve modified that route to not go through the state park. The rest of it wasn’t terrible, so I’ll keep it.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:50:25 01:42:32 19.69 11.52 38.25 775.59
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.