While maybe not completely surprising, the June 1 release of Father John Misty’s new record, God’s Favorite Customer is welcome. It also makes this act one of the more prolific in the mainstream space. I have had a long-term love affair with Josh Tillman, throughout his time with Fleet Foxes and through nearly every release he’s put out so far under his new moniker. I recall hearing Fear Fun for the first time and falling in love with the manic irony that pervades his lyrics and accessible, but interesting compositions. While last year’s Pure Comedy was a hit with most, I felt that it was just a little too bloated. When I heard that a new record was on the way, I was a little shocked.
Opening the album is the mid-tempo “Hangout At The Gallows” where the questions ‘What’s your politics/What’s your religion?’ are recurring lyrics throughout the chorus and reprise. Perhaps this is FTM’s subtle way of kicking in the door on what’s socially polite and acceptable in polite conversation. That disregard for normality continues in “Mr. Tillman” where an allegorical checkout from a hotel is told with all of the hilarity and tragic reality that has become a staple of this artist. Musically everything is executed expertly and the vocals express the exasperation with style.
Josh Tillman’s lyrics are among my favorite, and never is this more present than on “Just Dumb Enough To Try”; one of the most emotional songs that he has penned. Rife with anticlimactic analogies (‘You can take what I know about love and drown it in…a sink’) the song is able to parlay them into heart-rending moments. It’s a Father John Misty love song through and through. No sappy romance or high-brow poetry, just potent self-deprecation and honesty.
After the somewhat upbeat “Date Night”, which feels like it’s from the Fear Fun era, “Please Don’t Die” opens with a bit of dissonance, and moves right into the meat of the song with a fear of aging, loss, and longing. These feelings pervade the album, as you can probably tell by now, and the genius of FTM is how to approach them from so many angles. Even when the melodies are uplifting and borderline triumphant, as with “Disappointing Diamonds Are The Rarest Of Them All”, there’s still sadness woven through every moment. Of course, this isn’t news to any fans of this act, but the juxtaposition works well no matter the context.
God’s Favorite Customer is another masterclass in songwriting and intimate storytelling. It’s a more streamlined album than his recent releases, and I found my love for it growing with each subsequent listen. From start to finish this album sees Tillman trying to grasp reality as it swirls around him. Fighting to get a grip isn’t always fun, but understanding the futility of this struggle is the source of the whimsy. Carnival rides and roller coasters take away our control, but also coax from us insatiable laughter. The irony of this contrast is at the heart of every note present, and while every song isn’t a hit, the message strikes true.
Notable Tracks; “Mr. Tillman”; “Date Night” Just Dumb Enough To Try”
FFO: Jason Isbell, Kurt Vile, Deerhunter