Every so often a song comes along that is both new, and familiar. Unique, and yet something that feels like it’s been playing in the background of your life forever. That’s exactly how it felt when I listened to VAR’s latest single “Run” for the first time.
VAR’s journey to “Run”, which can be found on their latest album The Never Ending Year, began in 2013 as a solo project for singer, guitarist, and pianist Júlíus Óttar. Óttar soon realized that in order to achieve his vision for VAR he would need to bring in more creative voices to the project. He recruited his wife Myrra Rós, synths and vocals, as well as his brother and bass player Egill Björgvinsson. Óttar then rounded out the lineup of VAR with friends Arnór Jónasson on guitar, and drummer Andri Freyr Þorgeirsson. After years of playing live and developing a fiercely loyal following, VAR’s lineup evolved into a quartet with Myrra leaving the band, and drummer Sigurður Ingi Einarsson replacing Andri Freyr Þorgeirsson.
After reading about the band’s history, reincarnation, and the yearlong process of writing the album that saw VAR traveling back and forth from Óttar’s small hometown to the busy city of Reykjavik, “Run” transforms from a well-crafted indie post-rock song into an admission, and celebration of everything that brought the band to where they are now.
Egill Björgvinsson explained how the song writing process and sound of the band evolved with the new band lineup. “When we began writing The Never-Ending Year we had to compensate for members leaving. This is when we started playing louder and faster.” What started off as a necessity for the band became an amazing emotional level that they could then add to their songs.
“Run” starts with a burst of electric guitars and drums with a very ethereal, earworm of a lead guitar riff that both lifts your spirits, and leaves you with a sense of nostalgia at the same time. The song then begins to feel more open as the heavy distorted guitars give way to a slightly lighter arrangement. Sigurður Ingi Einarsson’s more complex drumbeat plays off of Egill Björgvinsson more simple bass line, adding an urgency, and emotional depth that pulls the listeners attention to Óttar’s opening lines.
You so emotional
You can’t blame yourself
You so emotional
Please don’t hate yourself
What struck me about these lyrics is that the opening line isn’t sung as an accusation, but feels more like a memory playing off of the melody Óttar sings. The rest of the verse then took on the feel of a statement of acceptance, forgiveness, and I would even say reverence for the memory, and the journey there in. The chorus then comes bursting in with the drive and energy of the songs opening few seconds, mixed with the emotional urgency established in the verse. Óttar then sings.
And if you Run
I follow you
I follow you
And if we learn
They follow too
Óttar does a beautiful job of saying so much with so few words, and the band as a whole do an incredible job of contributing to the overall emotional journey unfolding in each part of the song. These words sung over the driving chorus feel like a promise, and a new beginning, but without any anger or resentment towards what was. It’s a powerful statement of moving forward by honoring the past, and the people we all were before this moment, while feeling a heart racing excitement about the journey that is just unfolding in front of us.
I love the sound and feel of this song, the emotional peaks and valleys, and look forward to listening to the rest of VAR’s new album The Never Ending Year.