Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Album Review: Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer

Father John Misty
God's Favorite Customer
****and1/2 out of *****

On Father John Misty's last album Pure Comedy, the bleakness and stark/dull instrumentation was part of the overall aesthetic, now he returns with God's Favorite Customer and while the music is clearly more rich (like on his breakthrough I Love You, Honeybear) he has returned to his best subject, himself. Things are incredibly fragile and raw as God's Favorite Customer is the true relationship followup record to the madly in love Honeybear as things age, change and fall the fuck apart.

In the past Josh Tillman's Father John Misty character had very easy comparable in Harry Nilsson with his grandiose barque pop, cutting lyrics and humor mixed with brutal honesty. Now on God's Favorite Customer the comparison lies closer with Nilsson's partner in crime John Lennon and his solo records.

Misty wrote much of God's Favorite Customer while sequestered in a hotel room for two months "on the straits"  after misadventures and a life altering event blew up his life. The parallel with Lennon's "lost weekend" phase is direct, but it is not just the personal/honest songwriting about chaos, morality and heartache, but also evident in self producing and working with Josh Rado as the instrumentation and production has a warm Beatles like vibe from the start.

Opening with "Hangout at the Gallows" the rich bass and drums roll out instantly more inviting than anything on Pure Comedy; even though the specter of death is near at hand as politics and religion stab at a drowning man. There are strings, glockenspiels and dramatic swells but the core of the album is a 70's rock and roll confidence. "Just Dumb Enough To Try" injects a saxophone solo that is distorted, crackling through the speaker, foreboding cracks in his relationship.

The first world paranoia hotel blues of "Mr. Tillman" is illuminating to his frail mental state during the writing of this record, while also including his dark wit. Unfortunately death, suicide and mortality seem to be heavy on his mind as the hangover come down lonesomeness of "The Palace" (or "I Love You But No, You're Not") is cold, naked and piercing while closer "We're Only People (And There's Not Much Anyone Can Do About That)" imagines death a lot like birth and finishes the album with dynamic flair, singing in the face of the eternal unknown. Misty always closes his records with some take on the frailty of man and relationships between us all and this one is another great addition to his catalog.

The best overall song, and toughest to reconcile, is the gorgeous "Please Don't Die". The track uses an easy strum and folk rock framework to tackle relationship fears in devastating fashion, falsetto singing and an honest yearning that is wrenching. The beautiful sounds, surround suicidal thoughts, promises to "quit the morbid stuff" before asking who will handle the funeral arraignments for the singers target (very possibly himself). It is one of the best tracks of Misty's career and while the line between Tillman and his character is always blurred it is hard not to want to reach out and ask both if they are OK?       

Even when not trying to make a theme album Misty falls into one with a broken heart that is dripping over and around every song. He delivers on a break up tune that flips the songwriter microphone around to his lost love (conveniently titled "The Songwriter") while questioning if love that lives for ever is really all that special on the upbeat banging "Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All" which has bass slides, sax work, fuzzed guitars and expert singing with the only downside is that it ends too early.

The title track is a great example of this using electric keyboards and expert backing vocals from Natalie Mering while dropping, "I'm in the business of living. Yeah, that's something I'd say" which again blurs the artistic line, but let's hope he keeps living and things get better as God's Favorite Customer proves that Tillman can craft beauty out of personal pain and depression.

Tillman hasn't mentioned the exact cause of his hotel experience and the album is better for it. When the focus is on Tillman's life, with expert musicality surrounding his confessional lyrics things are extremely affecting. Pure Comedy tried to tackle humanity as a whole, Tillman was forced this outing deal with his more personal world (as performance and reality collides) and shows that however painful, he has enough material on his own.
Support the artist, buy the album and peep some video below:

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