God's Favorite Customer by Father John Misty
As the Bacon Top 31 is now in its tenth year, nearly every artist featured in the list has been discussed in previous years. Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, has been talked about directly (#14 in 2012, #6 in 2015, and #15 last year) and indirectly (Fleet Foxes at #9 in 2011, on whose album he was the drummer) for nearly the entire run of the Top 31. Throughout that time, Tillman, 37, has built up an ironic and iconic persona for himself that allows him a certain freewheeling stature in music, not unlike Dylan. But whereas Dylan had a straightforward-to-a-fault attack on the industry he was thriving in, Tillman’s Misty character is continually self- and industry-reflective, turning his hatred of the world inward and beating himself up for us all to see.
I really enjoyed what Tillman was doing with the Misty character on I Love You, Honeybear three years ago. With last year’s Pure Comedy things started to point downward, with Tillman’s difficult, story-driven narratives proving more and more obtuse. Now here we are with God’s Favorite Customer, and Tillman is at his worst (but still not bad, or else it wouldn’t appear here at all). Where Tillman’s previous Misty albums brought with them a level of humor and irony that made them stand out, God’s Favorite Customer lacks humor, and reveals more of (and drowns us in) Tillman’s neuroses.
Be that as it may, the music is still great, and well worth listening to if you’ve been a fan in the past. Where things continue to shine for Tillman is the visual representation of the music. The above video, for the song “Mr. Tillman” is dark in its self-exploration, and fascinatingly so. This song is the highlight of the album for me, and I’m glad the video works so well. Part of that is due to the team from the collective Little Ugly who created the video. Co-directed by Jeff Desom (co-creator of this insanely disturbing video for the band Health’s “Tears”) and Carlos Lopez Estrada (who created the equally disturbing video for Billie Eilish’s “When the Party’s Over”), these two directors are picking up the reigns dropped by video-auteur Chris Cunningham (creator of the most disturbing video of all time).
In addition to “Mr. Tillman,” four other videos have been made for the release of God’s Favorite Customer:
Beyond that, it’s also (surprisingly?) worth checking out the merch for sale on the Father John Misty site. The apparel, and the models wearing them, all tap into that particular humor / self-reflective irony that Tillman is so good at.
God’s Favorite Customer feels kinda “final” for me, in its apparent lack of humor. Maybe Tillman is growing tired of the persona, or bored. I can see the bones, but the skin he’s now living in just doesn’t have the staying power of his previous endeavors. Here’s to hoping the next one gets him (and us) back on track.