Father John Misty is an island upon himself. In his latest effort, he’s moved away from the politicism of his earlier work, to a more universal flow: The h.opelessness of one’s heart.
I don’t know if whimsical, kind of ironically post-modern and detached self-loathing is your thing. If it is, then Father John Misty is definitively going to hit all the right notes for you. God’s Favorite Customer, which works as a pared-down follow-up to last year’s (ironically titled) Pure Comedy, finds Misty (aka Josh Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes) indulging in what he said was going to be a “heartbreak album”. Woo, doggie.
You can but sit back and marvel at the construction of it all; the simple, early-’70s singer-songwriter balladry that takes its cues from Elton John, Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman, and a couple of Beatles for good measure; take the first couple of post-Fab Four outings for both/either John or George, take the tempo down a notch or six and you’ve pretty much got it. It’s an album which places itself in a canon of the tunes of a bygone era; there’s a simplicity to it which is marvellous. Misty has here taken a step from social commentator, a chronicler of a socio-religious downfall, to being more of just a sad bastard who can’t cut a break, love-wise.
It’s really something, this one. Just as much self-loathing is onboard here; much like his previous self-titled ditty, The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment, this new album features a song Mr Tillman, which begins with the singer saying that the last time he stayed he left his belongings in the minibar fridge. Some gallows humour is used liberally, and literally in Hangout at the Gallows, and takes a sonic-thematic turn with Date Night, wherein the author tries his hand at some pick-up lines, which is then immediately followed by Please Don’t Die, and, well. Yes.
This album runs about half the length of Pure Comedy, and brevity may very well be the soul of wit. God’s Favorite Customer, an album of infinite merit but scarcely limited commercial appeal, is in all likelihood not for everyone (pfffft!) and unlikely to find its way on high rotation of FM playlists or whatever streaming services people use these days. But it does hark back to a time and place where composition, thought, craft and musicianship bled great art.