Father John Misty isn’t exactly doling out the laughs on his third album, Pure Comedy, out Friday on Sub Pop. In true Father John Misty fashion, it’s meta and self-aware, touching on consumerism, fame, the environment and social media obsession, among many other things.
Since leaving Fleet Foxes (who are also back with a new record this year), Josh Tillman has perfected his satire of self-importance, and his music has taken a turn from indie rock dude to doomsayer songwriter, sprinkled with lush, Phil Spector-esque arrangements and Van Morrison-type horns and saxes. The ballads are soothing and sad. The uptempo songs are jams. It’s worth noting, as well, that with as much attention as his lyrics get, his smooth, perfect-pitch vocal delivery deserves just as much. Recorded in March 2016 at United Studios in Los Angeles, each song was captured in two takes or less.
When he announced the album back in January, he emailed his fan club with a 1800-word essay, explaining the record:
Pure Comedy is the story of a species born with a half-formed brain. The species’ only hope for survival, finding itself on a cruel, unpredictable rock surrounded by other species who seem far more adept at this whole thing (and to whom they are delicious), is the reliance on other, slightly older, half-formed brains. This reliance takes on a few different names as their story unfolds, like “love,” “culture,” “family,” etc. Over time, and as their brains prove to be remarkably good at inventing meaning where there is none, the species becomes the purveyor of increasingly bizarre and sophisticated ironies. These ironies are designed to help cope with the species’ loathsome vulnerability and to try and reconcile how disproportionate their imagination is to the monotony of their existence
Well, that’s one way of seeing the world. Read Steven Hyden’s review of the bleakly moving record and stream the whole thing below, which includes songs “Pure Comedy,” “Two Wildly Different Perspectives” and “Ballad of the Dying Man.”