Josh Tillman is back with another record as his alter-ego Father John Misty, with God’s Favourite Customer his most raw and succinct record to date. While 2017’s Pure Comedy was a more tongue-in-cheek social commentary filled with humour, the new album from Tillman is the most honest and broken songwriting he has released. The album’s songs were written by Tillman during a six-week period living in a hotel, estranged from his wife Emma, and offers up a dark, haunting album that is incredibly detailed.
Opening track ‘Hangout At The Gallows’ is a great introduction to the overall mood and tone of the album, beginning this journey of self-reflection that Tillman allows us to listen in on. Clashing bluesy piano lines with fuzzy guitars, the track offers numerous questions for the listener, but ultimately the lyric “I’m treading water as I bleed to death”, hits home the most. It’s the clearest notion that this Father John Misty instalment is starkly different from the last, at least in terms of lyrical narrative. This track has that same groove that listeners enjoyed and found on Pure Comedy but offers a much less humorous slant in terms of lyrical content.
‘Please Don’t Die’ is a highlight of the album, with the depression-themed ballad again highlighting Tillman’s expertly concise lyricism. Even the first line, “One more wasted morning when I could be holding you to my side/ Somebody stop this joyless joy ride”, really rams home Tillman’s predicament and emotional state when writing this record.
‘The Palace’ is quite possibly the most stripped bare and vulnerable cut from the album, and also one of the best piano-centric tracks. Telling the tale of a man on an inescapable binge who can’t take care of anyone let along himself, he’s unable to leave the “palace” in question and return to his normal life. The refrain’s line “I’m in over my head” comes out incredibly tortured and painfully raw, made even more apparent by the haunting piano chords accompanying the vocal. This raw nakedness and vulnerability rears its head again lyrically, when during ‘The Songwriter’, we hear “Would you undress me repeatedly in public/To show how very noble and naked you can be?”
One of the other album highlights ‘Disappointing Diamonds Are The Rarest Of Them All’, has more in line with tracks from Pure Comedy and 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear, and provides some nice contras to the piano ballads across the album. While Tillman is on this journey or bender of sorts, fleeting love rears its head on this track, but its looked at with a great deal of cynicism. With lyrics sung like “And the love that lasts forever really can’t be that special”, and “Does everybody have to the be the greatest story ever told?”, shows that at least in this story Tillman is much less optimistic about a love story and isn’t holding on as tightly to it.
God’s Favourite Customer may be a different record to Tillman’s previous releases under his pseudonym, but it is a welcome change that blurs the line between himself and Father John Misty. A painfully bare and exposed look at Tillman doesn’t eventuate into his best album to date, but it’s his most honest and interesting, and a work that demands attention.