By Allyson Bills
Suburban Pittsburg (Braddock, to be exact), Pennsylvania’s Run Forever has been through a myriad of changes since their formation in 2009; ranging from line-ups, band names (they are formerly known as Run, Forever), record labels (now on No Sleep Records) and, now noticeable to the listener, their sound from pop punk to a more 1990sgrunge direction. For example, both Thrice and Title Fight changed their sound that worked best with their band, despite their previous bodies of work that were considered “heavier,” which resulted in unexpected crossover success. Now with a solid line-up of vocalist-guitarist Anthony Heubel, guitarist-pianist Jeremy Sessa, bassist Cassie Staub and drummer Tom Moran, Run Forever is on the verge of similar crossover success with the release of their self-titled third full-length album. Their newest album was produced by Matt Talbott and Kyle Gilbride (Waxahatchee), two members of the seminal 1990’s band Hum, and a majority of the album’s eleven tracks were recorded analog style, which is rare in our digital world.
The album opens with “Ivory,” which debuted on the blog Brooklyn Vegan, channels Far’s Water and Solutions album, and demonstrates Heubel’s earnest vocals while he sings about feeling disconnected while on tour. His lyrics of “Once familiar things can lose their shape” strikes at the heart of anyone. Regardless of whether or not you have been on tour, you still will be able to relate to this song, especially if you are always living out of a suitcase.
“Big Vacation” was originally released as a 7-inch earlier this year, whose sound is an ode to the late 90s with a grungy twist. The song is very even-tempoed, until the 2:27 mark when the build up to the chorus at the end, and a nice guitar solo from Sessa that keeps the listener engaged until the end of the song. Again, Huebel’s lyrics are poignant as he croons about being sold something that attempts to improve one’s life, “You sound like a salesman while pitching your sincerity to me // We shake hands, but there’s no time to listen.”
The Hum influence is evident on the third track off Run Forever’s album, “Hikikomori,” with that signature melodic “big sound” and killer riffs from Sessa. The tempo change at the 2:03 mark brings new life to the song. If you look up the meaning of “Hikikomori,” you will find that it’s the Japanese term for “a person who avoids social contact.” The title of the song makes sense with Heubel’s lyrics of feeling lonely in a “full place” such as a “Roomful of friends that I left with an empty path.”
The melodic and urethral tone continues into “Contact,” a track with slow, steady drums. Think again to Far’s Water and Solutions era, where they employed a similar style on this particular album. “Contact” is the darkest song off Run Forever’s album with the eerie, hollow vocals from Heubel and the pulsating drums beats from Moran. This song is about feeling lonely, as it’s evident in the lyrics of “We’re breathing so heavy/collapsed in the sharp grass/you just get so lonely/you need this contact.” “Contact” is a perfect song for a rainy day where dark skies often create feelings of isolation.
“Shifting Responsibly” is the catchiest track off this album; sounding like an ode to Piebald, often known for their up-tempo emo songs of the 1990s and 2000s. This song is also Run Forever’s most emo (for a lack of better word) song off this album, and even spiritual in nature with Heubel’s lines of “You can pen every feeling to a scripture” and “Every word to a line of a hymn.” However, “Shifting Responsibility” has enough sensibility to make the song appeal to everyone.
Heubel shows his most vulnerable side in “Separate Bedrooms,” an acoustic track which is about his mom, and about being stuck in a position where there’s no hope. We have all felt this way, in one shape or another. “Separate Bedrooms” is sure to be a fan favorite in Run Forever’s future live shows because it’s a powerful track with Heubel actively engaging with the listener. If you aren’t feeling the feels with this line from Heubel, “Heart can only hate so much before it burns out,” then I don’t know what will.
“Grand Marquis” is one of the heavier tracks off this album, with crunchy guitars from both Heubel and Sessa and excellent backing vocals from Staub. There’s even a one-minute jam session toward the end of the song. “Grand Marquis” shows that Run Forever can be heavy when necessary. You can definitely hear the Pedro The Lion influences on “Exhale,” with the dark quiet-to-loud back to quiet style. The track starts out slow, and then builds up around the 2:10 mark and becomes even heavier at the end. For this reason, “Exhale” is my favorite track: because it epitomizes Run Forever’s chemistry for this album, and as a band.
The addition of Sessa to Run Forever has been instrumental, both literally and figuratively. He has given the Run Forever the depth in their songs that has been absent in their previous full lengths. This is especially apparent in “Plunge,” a slow-ish song reminiscent of The Get Up Kids album Something To Write Home About with a banging ending. His piano parts in “Plunge” gives the song a three-dimensional feeling that compliments both Heubel’s guitars and Moran’s drums.
“Company Card” is the shortest song off this album, clocking at a mere 2:48. However, it’s the most upbeat in nature, a stark contrast to the darker material on the rest of the album. Like “Separate Bedrooms,” “Company Card” is also destined to be one of the staples in Run Forever’s live set. The light-hearted strumming from Heubel gives you a feel-good vibe.
The final track, “Weight Under Me,” recently premiered on the blog Stereogum. This song was inspired by Heubel’s viewing of The Virgin Suicides. The song is obviously dark in nature, lightened with harmonies in the middle. Initially, it’s not the type of song that I would expect any band to end an album with. However, it makes sense as to why Run Forever chooses to end this album with “Weight Under Me,” because it emotes a fresh feeling, a fresh start to this band with the listener at last bonding with the newly revitalized. The ending of Run Forever’s albums is summed up in these lyrics from Heubel: “All the weigh under me disappears // It’s the first time I felt close to you.”
Run Forever’s self-titled album demonstrates the growth and maturity of this band, abandoning the inconsistent, generic pop-punk style that didn’t suit their musical abilities in their previous two full-length. I like that Run Forever recorded this album analog-style, because you can tell it’s organic and captures the raw emotions of the songs, like you are hearing each song again for the first time after multiple listens. This an album full of hooks and emotion that will appeal to any listener. It’s not an “emo” album by any stretch on imagination; it’s powerful rock album. Music without emotion is a jingle, and no emotion is boring anyway. Run Forever’s album is beautiful, and is a must-have for any music lover.