Chris Farren - Born Hot (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Chris Farren

Born Hot (2019)


Chris Farren is a legend in the indie/folk arena. Well, more of that urban myth's that come to life and is prowling, making saccharine catchy tunes to tug at the lighter side of fans who've enjoyed his work with Fake Problems and Antarctigo Vespucci. Is he as big a darling as Jeff Rosenstock, his running mate on the latter? Well, that's for another day, but as it stands, Born Hot is yet another cheeky attempt, plucked from Farren's mindscape of love, relationships and the ties that bind society together. Is it as fun as his solo debut from three years ago in Can't Die -- not as much, but it walks a mostly similar path, slowly burning away at the thick, cynical layers of your skin.

You can see off the bat why bands like Telethon worship Farren and why bands like Say Anything have influenced his work. This record, made in the confines of his LA apartment, finds the Florida native making music as minimal as ever, but countered with some of his best writing and overall thematic scopes to date. From the synth pop of "Bizzy" to the electronic beats of "Search 4 Me" Farren comes off like an indie-pop Weird Al making music for Netflix rom coms.

I mean, there are some melodic jams such as the piano-driven "Too Dark" where I felt like Rosenstock would have helped make an epic duet but it's all about quirky jams as Farren details relationships he's seen fall apart, his own love withstanding the complexities of other couples around him, and how love is eroded with family and friends who can't overcome the struggles. Think Master of None, but in a musical novel form. Some of the standout tracks he irons out include the more upbeat "I Was Amazing" and "Surrender" but I'd be hard-pressed to call the others moving. The groundwork and story's there but the doo-wop and showtune folk vibe don't match the narrative as well as I'd hoped.

The songs are mostly tragic but quite a few blend in to each other without much pizzazz and feel like interlude tracks to what should have been something more grandiose, especially as the album's title is all about the irony of self-confidence. Maybe it should have been a concept album with a douchebag perspective, but as it stands just documenting heartbreak around feels a bit worn and cliched for someone like Farren who I think has way more potential. Ultimately, the record's not bad but it doesn't crash-land the way I expect Farren's work to, blazing glory and that kinda thing. Still worth a listen, though, maybe on for a Sunday evening highway drive or for a bottle of wine/whiskey at night.