Josh Tillman’s last album as Father John Misty was Pure Comedy, a much-discussed album that appeared in lots of Best of 2017 lists. On it, the comic creation, or the aspect of his psyche he wishes to use for art, moaned about being ‘bored in the USA’ in the first few months of the Trump era. A year on and having gone around the world playing songs like Total Entertainment Forever and Leaving LA, Tillman has ten new tunes for our delectation on God’s Favourite Customer.
Album opener Date Night sounds like an old Beck song, with Tillman’s vocal double-tracked over some tambourine and piano. Hangout at the Gallows has some lovely backing vocals and the entire mood conjures the lounge feel that Tillman would bring to the Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. The song, unlike most of those on the new Arctic Monkeys record, keeps you hooked, and makes you wonder if this is really what a date with Tillman is like: ‘What’s your politics? What’s your reli-i-gion?’
Tillman’s voice is a brilliant instrument, soaring upwards in the right places. If only he was a better interviewee fewer people would be put off by him. He can definitely write great songs, as shown by The Songwriter. This is another piano-led ballad in which Tillman turns the tables on his love; instead of songs being writing for and about her, he wonders what her version of the relationship would be like if she composed it in a song. ‘Goodbye little songbird’ is his suggestion.
Mr Tillman is three urgent minutes which name-check Jason Isbell (‘he seemed a little worried about you’). The song seems to be a conversation with a hotel concierge who concludes ‘perhaps you shouldn’t drink alone’. It’s a character song in which Tillman himself is the protagonist: ‘This is just my vibe.’ Like Mr Tillman, The Palace is set in the Palace hotel – can you tell Tillman wrote this record while he was on tour?
The album closer We’re Only People (And There’s Not Much Anyone Can Do About That) is suitably elegiac, with some cello introducing a song that seems inspired by People, the Barbra Streisand song. The diminished fifth chord, which is magical and a component of many classic songs, is present on this track, proving that Tillman’s record collection is as impressive as his voice.
Those who dig lyrics will have more to explore (though not as much as there was to discover on the last album), but from a pop music point of view, there are enough tunes and choruses here to keep God’s Favorite Customer going for many months.