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God’s Favorite Customer — bravado, unbuttoned edge

God’s Favorite Customer — bravado, unbuttoned edge

June 05
00:11 2018

In creating his semi-autobiographical, semi-satirical stage self Father John Misty, Joshua Tillman has unlocked a deep reserve of productivity within himself. God’s Favorite Customer arrives just a year after his state-of-the-world epic Pure Comedy, which established him in the top rank of current US singer-songwriters.

That album opened with an epigram about birth. This one also opens with a new beginning, “black is turning blue” as the day dawns. The music seems to pick up where Pure Comedy left off. The melody is mellow but arrangements pile up recklessly and Tillman goes all-in vocally. It has bravado but also a wild, unbuttoned edge, reaching a heightened pitch that suggests either imminent epiphany or breakdown. As the album proceeds, it turns out to be the latter.

The tone shifts over the following nine tracks. It looks back to the 2015 album I Love You, Honeybear, in which Tillman-as-Misty, a dissipated seeker-after-truth, embarked on a parlous path to matrimony. “My love, you’re the one I wanna watch the ship go down with,” he sang then. Now we find him overboard, alone, “treading water as I bleed to death”.

A picture emerges of a period of solitary self-destructive behaviour, “pointless benders with reptilian strangers”, nights and days blurring into one. “Mr Tillman” is wittily sung from the point of view of a nervously polite hotel concierge dealing with an intoxicated, paranoid guest who happens to share Tillman’s name, set to a disarmingly groovy tune, complete with insouciant whistled solo. “Please Don’t Die” takes a graver view of the situation, a handsome country-rock ballad in which the singer croons sadly about “one more wasted morning”.

The production, assisted by Tillman’s regular collaborator Jonathan Wilson, is finely detailed. At its core is the singer and his piano, addressing the woman at the heart of I Love You, Honeybear (who bears a relation to Tillman’s real-life wife, Emma). The unburdening has a rogue aspect, summed up in “The Songwriter” when he imagines their roles reversed, with her exploiting their relationship for musical material. It is Father John Misty’s flamboyant, richly entertaining take on confessional songcraft.


God’s Favorite Customer’ is released by Bella Union

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