Fire Note Says: Father John Misty narrows his scope with improved results.
Album Review: Josh Tillman is once again a music writer (and thinker’s) dream. He provides material in each song, each album, that invites a strong reaction and curious reflection. While his 2017 LP Pure Comedy was quite bleak in both its views of the artist and the world around him, Tillman presents a less detached, more engaged self on God’s Favorite Customer.
This album is about a breakup with an ambiguous ending. Yes, we’ve been down this road many times before with many an artist. Considering the heights Tillman reached while exulting in his newfound love on I Love You, Honeybear, it does seem appropriate for the (possible) bookend of his marriage to make it into his catalog. With Father John Misty, we never know where the truth actually lies, and while it is tempting to try to parse it together, there is no need to do so. The songs speak for themselves. Even if created with some degree of guile, they ring true nonetheless.
Dammit, two paragraphs into the review and still not a word about the actual music. Of the album’s ten tracks, seven are slow-burning piano ballads, one is a mid-tempo number, and two are rockers in the spirit of “The Ideal Husband.” Both are catchy as hell; “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” wins the race by a nose. The title is a mouthful. It lasts a scant 143 seconds. It also has some of the best wordplay and imagery in the FJM catalog, which is already brimming with those elements. Sample lyric: “Like a pervert on a crowded bus/The glare of love bares down on us.” Yep, a dark sense of humor is required to go there with Tillman. The song is reminiscent of a John Lennon tune, in both musical and emotional tone.
The most emotionally jarring track, showcasing Tillman’s growing ability to express compassion and vulnerability, is “The Songwriter.” It consists of only Tillman’s vocals and piano; that’s more than enough to create a memorable experience. The lyrics stand front and center, and they are devastating and understanding all at once. It’s tempting to connect the message of the story with the modest anticipation and fanfare that a new Father John Misty album received; that may be us playing right into Tillman’s hands.
Pure Comedy was too oppressive, too heavy, to return to time and time again. The same is not true for God’s Favorite Customer. Each listen reveals more of the album’s nuances, bringing to new life a specific “Oooooooh,” a turn of phrase, or stroke of the piano. Tillman has succeeded in engaging both the head and the heart.
Key Tracks: “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” / “The Songwriter” / “Just Dumb Enough To Try”
Artists With Similar Fire: Elton John / Destroyer / Sufjan Stevens
Father John Misty Website
Father John Misty Facebook
Sub Pop Records
– Reviewed by Matthew Heiner