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