The music we sweat to matters. You can run to anything, but a particular caliber of tempo, beat and decibel serves a run well—the louder and faster, the better. Like hearing a great song in the car for the first time, listening to really good music on a run (or trot, or stroll, or whatever you do to get moving) can give it a new meaning, and induce big-time elation. The mingling of endorphins and sweat and the right tune passing through your earbuds is a euphoric combination. Usually clocking in between 30 minutes and an hour, albums make particularly great running material, allowing your jaunt a reasonable stopping point (unless you’re a marathon runner, in which case we’ll point you to something by Kamasi Washington). Next time you hit the trail or treadmill, consider giving one of these records a spin, even if your run is more of a walk.
Running to Julian Casablancas’ scratchy squawks and The Strokes’ focused, quick-paced riffs is a positively sprint-inducing experience. Just about any Strokes album would play to this list, but Room On Fire’s heated urgency is the most exercise-friendly. Immediately the record fires up with “What Ever Happened?” in which Casablancas and co. offer their own brief take on “Eye Of The Tiger,” a.k.a the most cliche exercise song ever thanks to Rocky. And no matter your opinion on the hit “Reptilia,” it’s an absolutely ideal tempo for running. Plus, “Please don’t slow me down if I’m going too fast” is the lyric you need to get to your next mile.
Yes you do run. Though its title implies otherwise, the Spanish quartet’s sophomore album is not the soundtrack to a couch potato’s weekend. I Don’t Run is energetic, punchy rock ’n’ roll, a break from the lo-fi tendencies on Hinds’ full-length debut, Leave Me Alone. Singers/guitarists Ana Perrote and Carlotta Cosials practically spit out the lyrics to “Finally Floating,” a jubilant song about sleeping that’ll have you doing anything but.
The best songs in a running playlist are the ones that flicker on and light you up, inspiring you to go faster, and St. Vincent’s “Cruel” is a real get-up-and-go kind of track. “Cruel” crawls at the start, but as soon as the hypnotic beats and Annie Clark’s snazzy guitar kick up, it morphs into a run-ready anthem. “And they were a zephyr, blowing past ya/ Blowing fastly so they can see ya,” Clark sings. Make like that zephyr and get going. The dense fuzz and steady thumps of “Northern Lights” are equally motivational, and the album’s kicker, “Year of the Tiger” is a good time to slow your pace for a cool-down.
“J-Boy”, the first track on Phoenix’s sixth studio album (and a clever acronym for “Just because of you”), is an explosion of color, the first of Ti Amo’s myriad rainbows. Ti Amo’s intensity of pigment will amplify the intensity of your workout, as the French band’s ode to Italian disco makes for a crisp 35-minute run. From the title track’s slippery synth to “Goodbye Soleil’s” sparkling sprawl, Ti Amo is an album as luminous as it is fun, and its grooves are enough to persuade your inner runner to take another lap, whether you’re treading the beaches of Capri or circling a neighborhood block. When you’re done running, treat yourself to a gelato—it’s what Thomas Mars would want.
Ruban Nielson’s hypnotic tale of a love triangle gone amiss makes for urgent running fare. The title track is such a fun listen it could act as its own running playlist on loop, but the album only grows in groove and amusement as it stretches on. The Latin flair and biting social critique on “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” will aid you in remaining distraction-free on your next trot, and the experimental funk of “The World Is Crowded” will keep you company. Multi-Love is a tremendously entertaining tale that’s just lengthy enough to get your blood pumping. Queue up Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Sex & Food while you recover.
Beyoncé once said, “Pretty Hurts,” but exercise doesn’t have to with Bey’s historic self-titled LP acting as your workout soundtrack. From Beyoncé’s landmark duet with JAY Z on the deliciously explicit “Drunk in Love” to her soaring rendition of “XO” (which John Mayer later famously tackled) to Frank Ocean’s empowering cameo on “Superpower,” this LP harbors some of Beyoncé’s most iconic moments, which is saying a lot (she’s Beyoncé.). “***Flawless” immediately became a self-love anthem upon Beyoncé’s release, and it’s still a staple at gyms and salons and parties everywhere. And the trap-happy “7/11” is a delirious display of energy that’ll make you want to sweat.
LCD Soundsystem’s sweaty, cathartic party anthem “Dance Yrself Clean” could constitute an entire workout class in which participants wildly flail themselves about until they feel better about whatever is bothering them. But if you’re unable to find such a willing group, running on your own to “Dance Yrself Clean” is a pretty fantastic alternative. As so many great LCD Soundsystem epics do, “Dance Yrself Clean” starts sleepily, but then, famously, it explodes at 3:09 in a release of dense synth and light and sound. That’s when you should adjust your run to a sprint. “I Can Change,” too, feels applicable to an exercise setting, its fleeting beats a motivational push. And don’t forget the revengeful “You Wanted A Hit” and the righteous “Pow Pow,” a pair of run-ready bops. Then, there’s the twinkly allure of “Home,” to take you there.
The Australian pysch-rockers’ synth masterpiece is a story of transformation, and that’s what we’re all really after on a run, right? We seek productive change through exercise, be it emotional or physical, and Currents is a deep, danceable, complex portrait of change. “Yes I’m Changing” tethers that idea to the album’s core as it beckons you to get outside and run a little faster: “There’s a world out there and it’s calling my name/ And it’s calling yours too.” Then, try your best to sit still during “The Less I Know The Better,” arguably one of the most entertaining marriages of electric guitar and synth this decade. But at Currents’s existential end lies an ambiguity in “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” Can people really change, or are we all destined to the same old ruts? Something to ponder as you’re wrapping up your 51-minute trek.
Most folks probably turn to something like Rihanna’s and Drake’s “Work” for workout jams, but there’s no reason you can’t sweat to new wave. Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House” just feels like a workout song. When David Byrne sings, “Watch out/ You might get what you’re after/ Cool, babies!/ Strange but not a stranger/ I’m an ordinary guy/ Burning down the house,” I have no idea what he’s talking about, so let’s pretend “house” is your workout and it needs some burning down. Take Speaking In Tongues’s first few songs to get warmed up, then by the time “I Get Wild/Wild Gravity” sounds off you’ll be hitting your stride just in time for the groovy, galactic “Moon Rocks.” “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” makes for a satisfying cool down.
It’s virtually impossible to resist the potential energy of Random Access Memories: Daft Punk’s 2013 LP will have you skipping, running and body-rolling your way through its hour-and-15-minute-long sprawl. Random Access Memories has everything you could want in a collection of workout jams: dancey disco, tight Autotune, new-age leanings, busy bass and R&B grooves, plus Pharrell Williams’ irresistible commands to “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky,” a now universally timeless tune. It’s as loveably diverse as it gets in house and electronic music, the funky, rowdy, electro playlist of your workout dreams.