Pure Comedy by Father John Misty
I’ve written quite a bit about Josh Tillman’s alter ego Father John Misty a few times over the years (his debut album, Fear Fun, was #14 in 2012 and his second album I Love You, Honeybear was #6 in 2015). But it’s only on recent runs through his fantastic third album Pure Comedy that I’ve come to this opinion: Father John Misty is the millennial Elton John.
Bear with me here. Think about it: Tillman’s stage presence is wild and ironically humorous, much like Elton John but without the costumes. Tillman’s voice is quite similar to John’s, and they both use them to great effect. The music of Pure Comedy is very orchestral, similar to much of John’s work from the 80s and 90s. Are you seeing it yet?
Where Tillman differs from John is his use of thick sarcasm to paint a bleak picture of humanity. This album is mostly quiet and good for having on in the background until you start paying attention to the words. Then you realize Tillman’s world is depressing and lonely. I’m not put off by sad, depressing music — I did come of age in the 90s, after all — so this album is right up my alley.
Tillman has always had a good grasp of the visual, but he’s taken it to new heights with this album. His website takes Ed Steed’s fabulous illustrations from the album cover and animates them. The video shown above, “Total Entertainment Forever,” features Macaulay Culkin dressed up like Kurt Cobain in a demented “virtual” world. And there are a number of other videos from the album:
There’s even a 25-minute short film called “Pure Comedy” directed by Tillman and Grant James that dismantles the Father John Misty songwriting process into a series of in-studio and LA-based imagery, a lot of which shows LA covered in raging fire — perhaps a little too prescient given the most recent spate of forest fires in the area. You can read a lot more about this album and Tillman’s process in the feature from the NY Times back when the album came out.
The song “Leaving LA” nearly killed the entire album for me. The song is over 13 minutes long, and the lilting way Tillman sings throughout the entirety of the song somehow expanded in my mind to fill the entire album, thinking he was stuck in a groove that had infected all 74 of its musical minutes. I thankfully got past it, and so can you. Give this album a listen if you haven’t already. And listen to its sad, broken stories. They paint a bleak picture that perfectly captures what 2017 felt like politically.
16. Shake the Shudder by !!!
17. La La Land (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by La La Land
18. The Underside of Power by Algiers
19. What Now by Sylvan Esso
20. 50 Song Memoir by The Magnetic Fields
21. Plunge by Fever Ray
22. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
23. Capacity by Big Thief
24. The Tourist by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
25. CCFX EP by CCFX
26. Woodstock by Portugal. The Man
27. MASSEDUCTION by St. Vincent
28. On the Spot by Hot 8 Brass Band
29. A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
30. Planetarium by Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, & James McAlister
31. A Moment Apart by Odesza