Review: Run Forever, ‘Run Forever’
Written by Joel Funk
Last Winter, I heard “Sun Bruised” for the first time, and I was elated. Run Forever became an instant addition to my daily rotation, and I made sure to listen to ‘Settling’ in full at least once every day. There’s an uninhibitedness to the raw and angsty delivery of lyrics that dealt with growth and anxiety, and the effects that they both have on current relationships that made this album feel so important to me, personally. ‘Settling’ is a record that I saw myself form an emotional attachment to almost instantly, and more importantly to the piece at hand, the reason I’m sitting here right now. It’s been three years since Run Forever released that mammoth of a record into the world, and now, with the release of a long-awaited new album, Run Forever have managed to bring something even bigger to the table.
Aggression is no longer at the forefront of Run Forever’s emotional delivery. Instead, their self-titled record boasts a sweeping and dynamic sound that has only elevated their work. We were introduced to this sound a little earlier this year, when Run Forever released the ‘Big Vacation’ seven-inch, which featured the incredibly vibey title track, and two songs that didn’t make the cut. Using “Big Vacation” as the introduction to the album was a good call. It’s a mid-tempo track that shows off the best of both worlds. The majority of the song details the humdrum of 9 to 5 life, using bouncy instrumentation to center the weight of lyrics like “But if the train went down/Or if the fuel runs out/Right over the ocean/That’d be what I live for,” before collapsing into something familiar. The tail end of that song is bitter and chaotic, but feels like a homebase for Run Forever. It is now an instrument instead of their arsenal; a tool, but not their only tool.
One of the best songs to come from this shift into new sonic territory is “Hikikomori.” This song transcends the indie and emo genres and plants itself smack-dab in the midst of alternative rock. The guitarwork at the beginning of the song is hauntingly slow, and provides a chilling backbone to the softly sung “Ugly/Are the secrets I keep/Inside me.” The song continues down this path, and stakes its claim as one of the most brooding songs on the record, both musically and lyrically. Which, in the context of this record, is really saying something.
That’s not to say that this record doesn’t have lighter moments. Well, musically lighter moments. “Separate Bedrooms” was another single released from the record, but the first time I heard this song predates even the announcement of the seven inch. It was right around the time Run Forever announced their signing to No Sleep Records. I was still in the throws of ‘Settling’ and was watching performance videos on youtube, when I came to a 6131 Records Showcase that saw Run Forever playing a new song. This was that song. Even then, it was stripped down. I assumed that it was because it was still a skeleton, but that is clearly not the case. The attention is to be paid to the lyrics, which are heart-wrenching. The entire first section of lyrics was enough to make well up, because they paint such a vivid picture.
In an interview with The AV Club, Anthony Heubel said “I tried writing this a lot of different ways to avoid saying who it’s about, but it’s about my mom. She’ll probably cry if she ever reads this. It’s a song about the ups and downs of life and holding onto memories. It’s a sobering account of how we can sometimes find ourselves left in an unfair spot for no good reason, with such little time and energy left to turn things around. I am a product of that life, and “Separate Bedrooms” is an observation of how random and left to chance our outcomes or existences can feel.” Which adds a whole new heartbreak to the lyrics, especially “You say that you’ve been better/But I only hear you crying now/In the middle of the night when you’re asleep inside that empty house/Where pictures hang, to serve as reminders of memories from years ago.”
The next real differentiation comes from “Company Card.” There’s a strangely upbeat sounding electronic backbone, with jangly tambourine playing, and a sparingly strummed strings that reminds me of a toned down, more focused version of “Generator: First Floor” by Freelance Whales. That’s about where the comparison ends, though, because even the most lighthearted Run Forever song is infinitely more emotional than “Generator: First Floor.” Believe me.
Like I said before, ‘Settling’ was the record that made me fall in love with Run Forever. The emotions were immediately present and tangible, and at the time, that was exactly what I needed. ‘Run Forever,’ the album, has built off of that to create a record where the emotion is hidden in the subtleties. They’ve learned to pull from their tool shed, and have blossomed into one of the most promising rock bands to come from our scene. I would be lying if I said that it didn’t take a few spins for this record to leave the impression that it has. But, I’d also be a liar if I said that this isn’t the album that I needed now. Run Forever, forever.