God’s Plan: Father John Misty Lowers his Guard on God’s Favorite Customer

There’s many ways to describe Josh Tillman’s music and his persona of Father John Misty, however typically one would never use the word optimistic. The latest album before his most recent release Pure Comedy, was a chronicle of a society losing it’s grasp on basic human communication and longed for a genuine connection. In many ways Pure Comedy was an accomplished album but at times it felt easier to admire than to like, perhaps Tillman was so focused on big ideas he forgot how to engage in small talk. Thankfully on his most recent outing with the Father John Misty moniker God’s Favorite Customer, Tillman’s songwriting showcases a clearer sense of empathy and insight while serving as a tremendous progression musically and thematically. Of course this being a Father John Misty album there’s still a notable sense of dark humor and irony coursing throughout it’s 10 songs with names such as “Hangout at The Gallows” and “Please Don’t Die” however, spending time with these songs reveal emotional layers and a sonic richness as well. Opener “Hangout at The Gallows” demonstrates some diverse arrangements as it blurs the line between folk and Jazz and “Please Don’t Die” ends up becoming one of his most stunning ballads illustrating a newfound warmth over some of his most understated production and nuanced storytelling.

What truly distinguishes God’s Favorite Customer from Tillman’s other releases is it’s emphasis on capturing moments of sincerity.  Stand-out numbers “Dumb Enough to Try” and “Disappointing Diamonds Are The Rarest of Them All” offer a multi-faceted portrait of Tillman as a romantic and contain some of his most fully committed vocal performances along with some of his most simple yet heartbreakingly effective lyrics.  If anyone was fearing this was going to turn into a sentimental record fear not as Tillman still finds time to parody his own debauchery on “Mr. Tillman” and skewer hipster culture on “Date Night”, and on “The Songwriter” we witness him at his most raw as he wrestles with his attachment to channeling his experiences into art.  The sense of balance and cohesion between the songs here allows for God’s Favorite Customer to establish itself as his most well-rounded release since I Love You, Honeybear and is a noted return to that album’s personal focus and generosity of feeling. Even the production here has a lightness of touch from the retro 60’s stylings on “Date Night” to the lush opens of ballad “The Palace” musically this album feels more organic in it’s textures and soundscapes.

In the past I’ve occasionally had a hard time deciphering Tillman’s perspective or motivations but with this album his concerns are at their most approachable and relatable. Closing track “We’re Only People” contains plenty of soul and grand arrangements but what truly sells it is that it serves as a celebration of the human experience. On each of his records, Tillman portrays Father John Misty as a man attempting to connect to the outside world while feeling complete within himself. On God’s Favorite Customer, he gets closer and closer to achieving that truth. Maybe one day he’ll get there maybe one day he won’t but god bless him he’s still dumb enough to try.

Rating 9 out of 10

Songs to Spin:  Please Don’t Die, Dumb Enough to Try,  Disappointing Diamonds Are The Rarest of Them All, Mr. Tillman, Hangout at The Gallows

 

 

 

 

 

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Silver Linings Playbook: Brendon Urie is living the High-Life on New Panic! Album

 

Despite the numerous line-up changes and stylistic shifts Panic! At The Disco has endured one common theme has survived, that of human excess and sin. Their break-out hit was called “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies”, one of Urie’s most emotional ballads is titled “This is Gospel”, and the new album’s roll out has fans being labelled “sinners”.   This dynamic between indulging in one’s own self and repenting has been a long-time conflict in Urie’s music up until this album Pray For The Wicked where extravagance is center-fold and subtly is nowhere in it’s vocabulary.  On album opener “(F**K a) Silver Lining” Urie exclaims “Everything is cherries on top” and that’s an apt description for his latest release which is a pure desert of a record with sprinkles and hot fudge dripping right off of it.” Silver Linings” establishes Urie’s mission statement here effectively, riding in with bombastic production creating a mix between retro swing and modern pop.  The momentum carries through it’s next two tracks with “Say Amen (Saturday Night) escalating the pomp with gospel elements and a bit of hip-hop thrown in for good measure all while Urie struts out his towering vocals, and on latest single ” Hey Look Ma I Made it” he utilizes some disco-jazz grooves to celebrate his ascent into the stratosphere.

Throughout it’s 11 songs, Pray For The Wicked is mostly able to sustain it’s own manic buzz and lavish nature due in part to Urie’s pure conviction and exuberance. On each track he’s dedicated to achieving pure spectacle and somehow he’s able to more or less accomplish it with the exception of a few tracks such as “One of The Drunks” which tries to examine Urie’s own penchant for debauchery but doesn’t quite hit the mark.  But when the record hits it really hits and on two of it’s stand-outs “Dancing’s Not a Crime” and “Overpass”  marries big band style brass with Hollywood noir with dashes of rock and soul sprinkled in-between. It’s not a surprise that Urie just recently finished a stint on broadway as Pray For Wicked has showmanship bursting from it’s seams, this same characteristic can be seen as self-indulgent but thankfully it doesn’t wear out it’s welcome.  For all of the celebrating and grandstanding these songs can contain, there’s are a surprising amount of vulnerability lying underneath. On “King of The Clouds” we see Urie questioning who he can trust around him and on “High Hopes” he acknowledges a time period where success was right around the corner but not yet tangible for him.

In today’s modern music age, we have to get used to our favorite artists or bands adapting.  Some are able to pull it off gracefully while others can’t seem to weather the transition. In Panic!’s case growth was always in their DNA and it’s been fascinating to chart the progression from angst-ridden emo outfit to the one-man show platform it is now.  What Pray For The Wicked does prove is that Urie is a consummate performer who’s dedicated to remaining as dynamic as possible. Judging off of the results, he doesn’t need much praying for.  Rating 8.5 out of 10

Songs to Spin:  (F**K a) Silver Lining,  Dancing’s Not a Crime, Overpass, Roaring 20’s, Say Amen (Saturday Night).

Tennis Anyone? The electric pop duo Take Asbury Lanes 6-13-18

21054902_1534427799912339_2156584657423238410_o     “Do You Like Tennis?” A friend of mine asked me a few weeks back.  I flashed back to when I was in middle school and had a really weak serve and thus my dreams of being the next Roger Federer were squashed instantly.  Thankfully, my friend was referring to the husband and wife synth-pop duo of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley who were just so happening to be playing Asbury Lanes.  Admittedly, before walking into their show last night, I hadn’t heard any of Tennis’s music or knew much of their background, however upon seeing them perform live at the recently renovated Asbury Lanes it’s hard not to feel just a little entranced by them.  Before the duo took the stage, the band known as Lyons came out to warm up the crowd and set the mood. Lyons, an all-female five piece came out with full intensity giving the sound system a good workout in the process. Their sound is a mix of garage-band style indie rock mixed with some of the 80’s synth-pop aesthetic shared by Tennis itself.  Throughout, their set was high-energy, vibrant and complemented and contrasted the headlining act quite nicely.

When it finally came time for Tennis to perform I was instantly curious about how they would make their entrance and what experience I was about to have. When the lights came back on again and the sound system cued up once more I was pleasantly surprised. The duo instantly set the mood with their atmospheric yet lush keyboards courtesy of Moore while Riley gamely provided support on guitar.  Lead singer Alaina Moore was decked out in a sequin top embodying a 70’s/80’s aesthetic that was wonderfully sustained throughout the set. What made watching Tennis perform so engaging was the chemistry the husband and wife duo exhibited on stage together.  That may seem like an obvious observation, but during each song the two played off of each other seamlessly and their interactions brought out an energy and exuberance that elevated the impact of their songs,  During a number titled “Matrimony” dedicated to her husband, Moore was purely uninhibited dancing and shimming on stage and giving off a radiant energy that proved hard to ignore.

The most refreshing aspect of Tennis’s set had to be how well-rounded and cohesive the song selections were. There were upbeat dance numbers that got the crowd moving, there were mood pieces that gave off pure atmosphere and songs that were so breathtakingly intimate they could’ve been prom anthems.  From song to song, lead singer Moore was charming, open and funny it almost felt like sharing an evening with a friend if your friend just happened to be in a really artsy indie group.  As they closed out their set, Tennis undoubtedly left an impression upon me showcasing how a small-scale group can achieve the same level of attention as any big-name act could muster.  I may not still know all there is to know about Tennis, but I can say judging off of last night’s performance the ball is definitely in their court.

 

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