By Jamie Peters
Father John Misty is no stranger to saying what is on his mind, most notably in interviews with music journalism establishments. On his most recent album, “Pure Comedy,” Misty (real name Josh Tillman) calls out L.A. archetypes, the wish for closeness in a growing world of distancing technology and other facets of this confusing new world.
Prefacing the release of “Pure Comedy,” Tillman wrote an 1800-word essay released alongside the title track and a 25-minute short film about the making of the album. In the album’s title track, Tillman gives one of many hot takes on what he refers to as “the comedy of man,” where he critiques the many depraved qualities of our society, portraying it in a dark yet ironic manner.
Leading into the next single, “Total Entertainment Forever,” he starts off with the head-turning line “Bedding Taylor Swift / Every night inside the Oculus Rift.” He premiered it on Saturday Night Live, initially causing a rather humorous and evocative flurry on social media. Tillman had to further explain that line of the song was not meant to be in any erotic fashion, but rather describing the increase of technology and its use for the human connection beyond emotion.
The next single to come off the album, “Ballad of the Dying Man,” which Tillman first played live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, spins a tale of an internet troll contemplating his final moments on earth. It asks if he would continue his old ways up until the big end or if there would be a meaningful reflection on his life up to then.
This leads into the 13-minute epic “Leaving L.A.” where Tillman sings about the culture of Los Angeles in his signature bitter lyricism yet, with warm empathy and tone in a 10-verse chorus-verse style with small anecdotes focusing on various people and parts of L.A. life.
The album lasts a whopping 75 minutes wherein Tillman calls out just about anyone and everyone. In “Pure Comedy,” the album marks a stylistic departure from his previous albums. 2012’s “Fear Fun” and 2015’s “I Love You Honeybear”. Much of the instrumentation has a slower pace to it and focuses more on the jazz instrumentation with the horns, saxophones and clarinets rather than the intricate folksy pop sound Tillman has in previous works.
The warm and intimate tone of the album makes the subject manner of the album easier to take in while being serious about it. This is the album 2017 needed and wanted. When the times are as frustrating and confusing as they have ever been, it is weirdly reassuring to have a voice in the music world to say these points to the masses. “Pure Comedy” is truly an album of our times. Tillman has come into his own, and with “Pure Comedy” he has set yet another standard for folk rock of the future.