Music’s favourite fabulist, Father John Misty returns for fourth studio album God’s Favourite Customer. Josh Tillman’s self-described ‘heartbreak album’ is a step away from his previous album. With the passing of Leonard Cohen the achy breaky heart gauntlet had been thrown down but Josh Tillman steps up to claim it on this new album.
For God’s Favourite Customer Tillman moves away from the post tech apocalypse world view expressed on Pure Comedy and remains gloomy, but narcissistically so. Tillman’s voice is incredible, it’s warm, it’s emotive but it never feels like more than a part of the persona.
Lyrics about Taylor Swift and Oculus Rifts are replaced with his wife and self-loathing. In a recent interview Tillman said “when it comes to fame, the thing that people love about you in all likelihood doesn’t actually exist” so for his fourth album he blends the man and the myth; questioning if it’s Father John Misty or Josh Tillman that’s the act.
At the heart of Father John Misty is mystery, having lived a thousand lives as different people, including J. Tillman, the drummer of Fleet Foxes and living nightmare to interviewers around the world. The stories Father John Misty tells are elusive, from his sublime ode to his wife Emma I Love You, Honeybear to seeing a girl with a thing for cemeteries.
The first single ‘Mr Tillman’ has a Beck vibe, It tells the tale of Mr Tillman checking into a hotel, recounting what happened last time he stayed through a frustrated concierge. The narrative furthers the idea of the living troll, the tale being semi-ironic and blending the seams of the story between Father John Misty and real life Josh Tillman. The working title of ‘Mr Tillman’ was ‘Bowery’, the name of the hotel in which he spent a stint in New York.
There’s genuine heartache in ‘Dumb Enough to Try’, which sounds like it could’ve been lifted directly from a Tom Waits album. Here we see Tillman slip in and out of character, as the self assured, intelligent ladies man Father John Misty to Josh Tillman, crippled in fear that he will never truly know his wife beyond hollow meaning.
‘The Songwriter’ is equally as confessional. It begs the question to Tillman’s wife, Emma, that if they swapped roles would she sing of him. It succinctly vocalises the moral dilemma of confessional songwriting: muses that have no desire to have their lives confessed by an artist.
The image that Josh Tillman spent over half a decade building has begun to topple on God’s Favourite Customer. He picks apart the persona in front of an audience for the world to see. Could it finally be a peak behind the curtains? Could it be the beginning of the end? It’s like a car crash that you just can’t look away from.