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TRACK MARKS 2021: “4Runner” by Rostam

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.

Track Marks is a recurring SportsAlcohol.com feature that invites writers to briefly discuss a song that is meaningful to them in any way. Though they can appear on the site at any time, we always run a bunch of them around the turn of a new year, looking back at the previous year in music.

There was a brief, blink-and-you-missed-it period when it seemed like everything was going to be okay. That we’d pull through this whole COVID mess; the masks could be doffed, the social distance between us closed. It’s hard to believe now as Omicron continues to wreck its havoc on vacation planning and school reopenings, but during the weeks of June and July 2021 when it seemed like this great disaster was about to be in the rearview, Rostam’s swoony “4Runner” was my personal soundtrack.

This isn’t to say I was spending a lot of that period driving around; even two and a half years after moving back to the Midwest I still don’t have a car. But like the titular vehicle, “4Runner” is a track designed for the open road, even if it’s just one you’re riding in your mind. Rostam seemed to anticipate this by releasing the single way back in March of 2021, when most of us were still homebound, in advance of his second solo album Changephobia. Though he hasn’t collaborated with Vampire Weekend in several years now, the song recalls some of their breeziest work, though it’s much less indebted to Paul Simon’s multicultural melange than the self-consciously cinematic sweep of Roxy Music.

Employing a surging mix of 12-string acoustic guitar, drums, and a Moog bass, Rostam constructs a euphoric ode to queer love and the freedom that can be found as much in a lover’s arms as the wind in your hair. The lyrics paint a nostalgic portrait of a couple who could be on the road or on the run: the 4Runner they’re driving has stolen plates, after all. A sense of illicitness, even danger, hangs over the scene; at one point Rostam mentions the knife his partner keeps in the passenger door. The song never boils over into melodrama, though. This isn’t a Thelma & Louise story, doomed to end in tragedy. There are no cars careening into canyons here. Instead there’s an acknowledgment that uncertainty is part of the trade-off of partnership, and might even be one of the rewards. “I’m waiting down the street. Take all the time you want to come,” Rostam sings, the music fading beneath him like a sunset, a daily event that can still feel momentous despite its constancy. It was difficult to be spontaneous this past year, but “4Runner” reminds us what it feels like to throw caution to the wind and take off somewhere unmapped, if only for three-and-a-half minutes at a time.


There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!

This song has a lot going against it. It’s by that one guy from that one band, plus another guy (but not the guy) from that other band; surely it can’t be as good as the output of their real groups, right? It also has an uninspired title, similar to that song from Llewyn Davis or that catchy one-hit wonder. Worse, when you load it into iTunes, that title comes up as “A 1000 Times,” which I always read as “a one thousand times.”

When I actually stop and listen to the song, though, I don’t think about those things anymore. I don’t think about anything. “1,000 Times” brings me to a dead stop, and all I can do is feel longing. Rarely am I attracted to songs because they are merely beautiful; this one is pretty, to be sure, but also sad and lonely, though not exactly down for the count.

The speaker of the song is dealing with an unrequited love, the kind that has you wandering past someone’s house without consciously deciding to. I get that, but I’m mercifully long past my unreturned-crush days. Even so, the opening lines “I had a dream that you were mine/I had that dream a thousand times” can be felt by anybody who has something just out of reach, aka everybody on the planet.

Again, universality isn’t a requirement for me to like a song. But there’s just something so gripping about this one. You can feel the mix of hope and defeat. You get the sense of moving on (“I changed my crowd, I ditched my tie”) without really getting over. I know by now it’s a cliché to say that 2016 was a rotten year, but it’s one we’re closing the books on as we take its traumas with us. And one heartbroken voice, singing “The 10th of November, the year’s almost over,” is going to come with me into 2017.