Chris Farren is a staple in the emo pop scene, known for his work with Fake Problems and Antarctigo Vespucci, so it seems a little strange talking about his debut album. Still, Farren’s first solo record Can’t Die, released on September 2nd through Side One Dummy Records, feels fresh and unique, quickly distinguishing itself from his other projects.
Consisting of fun synth riffs and a sound that’s more pop than emo, one could easily mistake this for a happy album without listening to the lyrics; Can’t Die may be one of the most danceable records ever made about feeling like shit. Throughout the album, Farren sings about his experiences with anxiety and depression, and the ways that these mental illnesses can take a toll on interpersonal relationships.
“Say U Want Me”, the first single from the album, exemplifies the themes of anxiety prevalent throughout the record. One prominent feature of many anxiety disorders is the need for validation from loved ones-the need to constantly hear that you are needed and appreciated, and that the people in your life don’t actually secretly hate you. “Say U Want Me” acknowledges this, admitting, “I need you most when you ignore me, I want to be your everything.”
This can be frustrating to both parties in a relationship, and Farren shows the other side of that coin in the track “I’m Not You”. “I’m Not You” takes the perspective of the partner of an anxious person, who struggles to help the one they love deal with problems they don’t entirely understand. It features a beautiful saxophone track as well as a field recording from Farren’s honeymoon, where he says his wife was trying to show him the Milky Way, but he was unable to see it, a metaphor for the way that a partner may try to point out the beauty in life that someone struggling with mental illness might not be able to see on their own.
The best track on Can’t Die, however, is “Human Being”, the song so great it actually inspired its own coffee blend at Los Angeles’ Lamill Coffee. “Human Being” follows in the footsteps of Courtney Barnett’s “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”, describing the uncomfortable duality of being desperate for company until being put in a social situation, and immediately wanting to go home. Ironically, with its gang vocals and a chorus of “Yeah yeah, yeah yeahs” in the bridge, “Human Being” easily wins the “Most Likely to Get Played at That Party Where You Feel Really Awkward But Also Feel Socially Obligated to Stay For At Least Another Hour” award.
Can’t Die is an incredible debut record, which shouldn’t be surprising given the crazy amount of performing and touring that Chris Farren has already done. It’s the musical version of those “Dank” Nihilist Memes the kids are sharing on Facebook these days, in the best possible way. Chris Farren has made a beautiful album that is both cringeworthy in its relatability and fun to sing along to in your car. The jury is still out on whether or not he’s secretly a ghost, but we can definitely confirm that Can’t Die is worth a listen. You can buy it now from Side One Dummy and catch Chris Farren as he tours the US this fall with Brian Fallon, Modern Baseball, and AJJ respectively, or at his show with Jeff Rosenstock in LA this October.
Rating: 7 out of 8 slices