The week after I arrived in Sweden I witnessed the Lidingö Loppet — a running race over the most hilly and lightly populated of Stockholm’s main islands. It isn’t very long, but the inclines make for a grueling run. So what music do the organizers blare over loudspeakers to rally the contestants as they push on over hills and muddy terrain? ABBA, of course. Watching hundreds of trained runners do their thing to the sounds of “Dancing Queen” is an amusing sight indeed [see movie]. While I struggled to contain laughter my Swedish companions didn’t see the humor. After all, regardless of its age, this is their most patriotic music, akin to a national anthem. What could be more invigorating? I understood.
Today is the Stockholm Marathon, a longer race through the middle of the city. The course includes Odengatan, the major street just a few hundred feet from my office. To my despair the soundtrack for this race is far more obnoxious than ABBA. Instead, for the next 4 hours I get to hear a loop of three mindless contemporary europop hits, hard-packed with trance techno. If I were a runner in the Stockholm Marathon, I would go mad before I got tired.
So I've been using the office stereo to drown out these sounds with my own marathon tunes: “Serge” by The Folk Implosion, “Me And Giuliani Down By The School Yard (A True Story)” by !!!, “We Like Having These Things” by Numbers, “Take A Walk” by Spoon, “Date With The Night” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Not The Same” by Ben Folds, and “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand. They’ve all got that aggressive beat to keep your feet pounding the pavement and they aren’t hideously irritating.