On the cover of Go With the Flow, Brad Lauretti, the singer-songwriter behind This Frontier Needs Heroes, wears a cowboy hat in what looks like a cozy roadside cafe. Above him, retro typeface spells out the album’s title and the artist’s name. It looks like a homage to album art from the 60s, another step in the tradition of folksy rock. Through the album’s songs, Brad seems to play the wise bartender/cowboy archetype, keeping up the 60s-inspired aesthetic and singing tales of a life lived and lessons learned.
Kicking off with the title track, the first few seconds of Go With the Flow sound like a charmingly stripped-back folk project. But quickly, the song expands into something more modern. Brad’s vocals are brought to the front of the mix and the overall sound is cleaned up. This shift isn’t awful, but Brad’s melodies and lyrics arguably sound better in their formerly raw setting.
The title track serves as the project’s thesis, both sonically and lyrically. Though the former is generally pleasant, the latter often leaves much to be desired. Like the opener, many songs on Go With the Flow hover close to their title, as if Brad is unsure how to move beyond the simplistic choruses of a first draft.
Over the next two songs, “South Dakota” and “Dumb It Down,” Brad decides to bury his vocals under notably artificial echoes and reverb. This decision makes it hard to appreciate the solid melodies at the tracks’ cores, a task made harder by the plainly bad writing on “Dumb It Down.”
When “One Mistake” arrives, the previous tracks’ poor production choices are contrasted by vocals finally free of reverb. Brad again works out an enjoyable melody as he sings about not giving up and trying harder when things go wrong. The song is one of the best on the project, but it’s hard to escape the sense that Brad’s chosen aesthetic is ill-fitting. A lot of the album feels like a theme park performer’s rendition of cowboys in the old west. Ultimately, Brad comes across as an indie-folk cosplayer.
Throughout his project, Brad tries to write stories with virtues at their center. On “Don’t Hate Your Hometown,” the artist tells us to appreciate our roots, again repeating the song’s title way too much. Altogether, the message rings hollow. The whole “we had big dreams and people thought we were crazy” thing is tired and old. Further, Brad’s version of the cliche is weighed down by a jumbled structure and mundane rhyming. “Expectation” is partnered with “realization,” and “pointlessness” joins “helplessness.” It’s all so obvious, and Brad’s monochrome vocals do the track no favors.
“Fossil Fuel Fascists” is a bit of an anomaly on the tracklist. The punkish lyrics take on climate change and the corporate interests upholding its attack. It’s a sudden and rather strange departure from the timeless ideas of previous entries. Nonetheless, the song’s relevant message and simple combination of guitar and vocals make it the second stand out track, working alongside “One Mistake” to keep their weaker counterparts afloat.
By the time Go With the Flow’s final song ends, it’s hard to say whether or not the project was enjoyable. Parts of Brad Lauretti’s latest effort show promise. But like the opening track’s first few seconds, these promises are often left unfulfilled, getting washed away by bad production or poor writing.