Standout Track: No. 3, “With Swords,” which builds from a sensitive, 60-second keyboard intro into an uptempo alt-rock tune. Frontman Stephen Kilroy journeys through longing (“Wish I could be there/At home/With you”) and Larry Davidnstyle awkwardness (“Why’d you cut your hair?/Don’t get me wrong/It’s cute”) into fantasies (“Wish I could be there/Fighting demons/With swords”) and bitterness (“Wish I could be there/With you/In hell”).
Musical Motivation: “You can really apply it to any pain-in-the-ass girl you’ve ever dated,” Kilroy says via e-mail during the Arlington band’s recent Northeast tour. Drummer Erik Dean wrote the bulk of the lyrics, but the haircut line is based on Kilroy’s personal experience. “That line was sort of making fun of how verbally clumsy I am, saying things and immediately wanting to take them back,” he says.
Hit Points: The band has been playing “With Swords” since about 1999, but Kilroy says its long history isn’t necessarily the foundation of its success. “To be honest…I think it gets better and better as we get more equipment,” he says. “It used to be kind of sonically spare, but now we’ve got all these oohs and ahhs and organs and acoustic guitars on it, and it’s a lot more complex and fun to listen to.” He name-checks the Flaming Lips and the Chemical Brothers as inspirations for those sonic touches. And what about the demons? They’re a nod to Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” Kilroy says, adding, ”We stop short of mentioning Mordor by name, though.”
Middle Distance Runner plays the Black Cat on Oct. 20.