Written Before Listen
Father John Misty is one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters of the past 10 years or so and he has returned with a new album. Starting as the drummer of the widely celebrated folk band Fleet Foxes, Mr. Tillman has had made more success as a solo musician. With a new album coming from him, I'm expecting some good wisdom and messaging but let’s see what we get so without further ado, let’s get into it.
So, Mr. Tillman avoids any electric instrumentation throughout this album except for some instances. He devotes the instrumentation to the 40s and 50s. Right out of the gate, we get a show-tune-like swing cut with chromatic downpours and big band-style horns, and those types of instrumental choices appear throughout the album. If he isn’t going with that sound, he goes with a 60s style leaning towards more baroque pop-tinged singer-songwriter. With that being said, there is a lot of production trickery on this album. On “Kiss Me (I Loved You)”, Misty puts a heavy amount of tremolo, and let me tell you right now, people think it's vibrato, but no….it’s tremolo. The horns on this record are also recorded through what sounds like a 90-year-old tape machine but I doubt that's what they recorded on. Overall, I think the production is immaculate. It’s luscious, it’s grand, it's relaxing and meditative and most importantly, it fits the mood and aesthetic Father John Misty is going for.
Well, I like aesthetics and I think they fit for giving a thematic premise to an album, Father John Misty devotes too much of his time to trying to fit the stylings of the 40s and 50s. Genres such as Traditional Pop, Baroque Pop, Vocal Jazz, and Lounge are all genres Father John Misty touches on, which means he not only devotes himself to classic sounds but sounds that were popular before what you consider classic sounds were developed. When the top traditional pop musicians were famous, rock music and folk music weren’t popular yet. We all know Father John Misty leans towards classic sounds, but he’s yet to go this far into it and I don't know if it's a move he should continue with in the future.
So who in particular does Father John Misty take influence from? Well first off, Frank Sinatra and Johnny Mathis are the big ones. The chord progressions, the vocal dynamics, and the overall aesthetic devote themselves to those two musicians. He also takes the influence from 60s baroque pop and people like Scott Walker and Randy Newman automatically come to mind, but Lee Hazelwood is another one. I also think the 1940s bar vibe could’ve been a nod to Tom Waits and Bob Dylan but who knows. Overall, I do think Father John Misty takes good influences, but I do also want to listen to people like Sinatra after listening to this album
I think Father John Misty is a great songwriter, and he continues to prove himself on this album as one. We start on the opener where Father John Misty portrays a 1920s ballroom dancer who is a “borough socialist” who is prescribed medicine for her shoplifting habits. On the following track “Goodbye Mr. Blue” Father John Misty talks about taking care of a dying cat and it could resemble a dying relationship as well and it honestly makes it one of my favorite tracks. In the song “Buddy’s Rendezvous”, Mr. Tillman tells a story about a dad getting out of prison and meeting her daughter whos becoming a star as he gives his daughter bad advice like telling her to work at a bar and try to aim for money, at the tail end of the album, we get a couple of love and breakup songs until we get the final track which ties back to the opening track as Chloe dropped off of a balcony, things got dark in the 20th century. Overall, I don't know how knowledgable Father John Misty was in a time he wasn’t even born in, but he seems to be educated enough to write a 7-minute song about it. I think he does a good job portraying these times and I think his songwriting is what makes this album a worthwhile listen.
Other than the aesthetic, I think Misty’s pretentiousness and close-mindedness could give this album a loss of pushing forward, but sometimes nostalgia is worth it. Nostalgia is a beautiful thing and I will say that Mr. Tillman knows how to create it. So, Despite the tacky aesthetic, Father John Misty proves himself to be a student of the genre and aesthetic he’s trying to portray.
Well, I wouldn’t say that this was what I was expecting but I'm not arguing. I enjoyed this album quite a bit. If I'm in the mood for this type of music, I know where to go if I want something like this with modern production, good concepts, and intricate songwriting.