Release Date: Jun 1, 2018
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Folk
Rewind to Summer 2015: Josh Tillman – aka Father John Misty – was everywhere, having garnered near universal adulation for second album I Love You, Honeybear. It followed 2012's Fear Fun and developed the character from a hedonistic shroom-addled Hollywood waster into a hedonistic shroom-addled Hollywood waster who had fallen in love. His live shows were pure entertainment: the sexual bombast of hip swivelling, pelvic thrusting, dramatic falls to knees, guitar throwing and mariachi bands, all delivered with a knowing wink but also moments of breathtaking sincerity.
The magnificent ego of Father John Misty makes his music seem really important. The music is not really that important, of course, but when you hear that smooth and gentle soft-rock with his olden croon centered so perfectly on every pitch, it seems like it is, in the way that narcissists or the canon of classic rock seem important. This outsized persona bursting forth from singer-songwriter Josh Tillman is full of self-mythology descended straight from Bob Dylan, dripping with a painted-on significance: His greatest passion is his thoughts.
Compared to Pure Comedy, the 2017 album that spread out over the course of 75 minutes, God's Favorite Customer feels light and breezy. That's intentional, of course. Father John Misty never makes a move that isn't considered, and God's Favorite Customer is designed to be the digestif after a multi-course feast: a palette cleanser that riffs upon the flavors lingering on the tongue.
The good Father's "drunk in a hotel" record shocks in its simplicity. The party is over and the guests have departed; light is streaming, streaming through the curtains, and there's no one, no one at home. All except your not-so-humble narrator, 'God's Favorite Customer' himself, and he's not quite sure what happened either.
In its piano-ballad gait, baroque-pop raptures and confessional sting, Josh Tillman's fourth album as the darkly antic Father John Misty often sounds like it was made more than 40 years earlier under yet another name: John Lennon. It's as if Tillman wrote and arranged these songs under the sumptuous, despairing spell of Lennon's early-Seventies solo records, with time off for the late-Sixties Zombies and the Beach Boys' Sunflower. Josh Tillman punches skeletons, takes canoe ride with Grim Reaper in clip for 'God's Favorite Customer' track In "Just Dumb Enough to Try," Tillman dresses his remorse and amends in Imagine-like curtains of mellotron and spires of slide guitar.
Back when he was plain old J. Tillman, the man who reinvented himself as Father John Misty churned out records at quite a pace. The production line slowed since he dropped the earnest folk shtick and turned into cynical, satirical jokester Father John Misty in 2012, but output is ratcheting up. The gap between albums has narrowed from three years to two to one.
When you write an album with a concept as lofty as last year’s ‘Pure Comedy’ - a complex, sprawling opus that tried to distill the essence of the modern world into 75 minutes, then you’ve given yourself a hell of a task to follow it. Once you’ve tackled the subject of the universe and everything, where do you go from there? ‘God’s Favorite Customer”s answer is to turn the lens inwards. But, because this is Father John Misty, of course it isn’t just another set of ‘woe is me’ shoe-gazing.
To download, click "Share" and right-click the download icon | iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS The Lowdown: Josh Tillman's alter ego, Father John Misty, set out to discover himself and scoff at the world at large on Pure Comedy, but in doing so, he almost lost the woman he won over throughout the course of I Love You, Honeybear, leaving him broken, manic, and lost as he attempts to find his way back home. The Good: God's Favorite Customer is his most succinct effort yet, rarely ever breaking from the album's overall narrative. Clocking in at nearly half of Pure Comedy's running time, Tillman is at his most direct, writing about the grotesque side of love in full detail and showing what happens when it all goes wrong.
According to writer and broadcaster Malcolm Gladwell, it's specificity which separates those songs which you want to wallow in, and those that are simply backing tracks to our lives. Songs that are lyrically precise - hooking us in with relatable anchors of detail - are the ones we cling to (and occasionally cry to) above all others. Four albums in, Father John Misty aka Josh Tillman has proved himself a master of detail, sweating the small stuff to create character-rich vignettes which lampoon and lambast humanity's failings on both a macro and micro level: 'What the fuck is going on?', he asked the audience mid-set at a recent US festival performance, encapsulating the desolate worldview reflected on record.
So maybe that’s why it was so hard to get a read on him on last year’s Pure Comedy: on that album, he played the perturbed sociologist, taking swipes at contemporary American society from what often felt like an alien, outsider vantage point. While Comedy was the singer’s — as he himself describes it, deeply polarizing — foray into more overt social criticism following the smarmy ironic charm of his championed breakout album I Love You, Honeybear, God’s Favorite Customer finds Father John at an impasse. He’s still the hedonist that appeared on the less sentimental moments of Honeybear, but, now wizened from social discord and failed romances, Misty is reckoning with the pleasure principled character that had appeared on Honeybear and his debut Fear Fun.
Barely over a year after he brought us the portentous Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman is releasing his fourth album as Father John Misty, God's Favorite Customer, and the hastiness shows in the music. Where each of the previous three Father John Misty albums had their own unique stylistic thrusts, God's Favorite Customer—whose very title reads like a blithe self-parody of Pure Comedy's grand thesis on religion, consumerism, and VR porn—feels muddled and indistinct. This could be partially attributed to its overabundance of co-producers, both new (Foxygen's Jonathan Rado) and familiar (frequent Tillman collaborator Jonathan Wilson).
Reportedly, Tillman wrote God's Favorite Customer when his "life blew up" and he went to stay in a hotel for two months. "In short, it's a heartbreak album," he told Uncut last year. If only the actuality of a Father John Misty record could be that simple. Hysteria, rumour and debate swarm the LA-based songwriter.
With last year's vast concept album Pure Comedy having explored the human condition as a whole, from a bird's eye view, Father John Misty rapidly returns to the topic of love, albeit from a much more personal perspective. Tillman himself describes his latest effort as "The real I Love You, Honeybear, without the cynicism." Though his trademark sarcasm and wit still find their place on God's Favorite Customer, this is definitely a more sincere and stripped back set of songs. One of the draws of a Father John Misty album is its incredibly comedic lyricism and cynical approach.
It only takes a few minutes digesting the opening track from Josh Tillman's latest LP to understand that the enigmatic singer songwriter is, to put it simply, not in a good place. His conclusion to the difficult, perpetual issues surrounding the human race on last year's triumphant 'Pure Comedy' was that rather than allowing fear to prevail, we should enjoy our lives as much as it is possible to. It was a reassuringly positive message issued in dark times.