Brent Floren – Fortune

Brent Floren

This is a low-key coffeehouse sort of folk record. Indeed, reinforcing this idea is the cover photo of Mr. Floren (I assume) with his head down on a table, clutching a cup of coffee. However, the laid-back feelings delivered here support the idea that he hasn’t been drinking much of the coffee. In fact, most of these songs are outright downers, as Brent observes the monotony of the world around him but sounds powerless to change any element of it.
Brent tries to beef up his singer-songwriter set with a few production touches, such as distorted vocals on the opening cut, “I Don’t Mind Dyin’,” and a few layers of light keyboards, overdubbed guitars, and bongos make appearances, but Brent’s guitar and fragile voice are the focus here. Floren explores several topics that those living a modern urban life can relate to, and he reaches many of the same insights. “Road Rage” and “Work” explain themselves, and “Keep It Brief” is about the inability of modern people to take time to listen someone else’s problems. Floren doesn’t offer any solutions to the darkness he sees, and he seems to firmly believe that there aren’t any. He leaves the listener with glum feelings of resignation, reinforced by the slow tempos and minor keys that dominate the record.
Several of these songs would have worked wonderfully with a full-on band arrangement, especially on “Free Facelift,” which sounds like it could have been a Paul Westerberg gem in a previous life. (Pre sucky-era Westerberg, of course.) But that could be the point Floren is trying to make. Have our ears and attention spans, bombarded with advertisements and flawless rock band arrangements, made us unable to be entertained by a simple singer-songwriter showing us the goods? Perhaps, but this world view is so bleak that without additional instrumentalists to add some life to the mix, the record doesn’t beg for repeated spins.