Joshua Tillman is now a decade into life under his Father John Misty moniker. During this period, the former drummer has built a luxurious brand of sophisticated orchestral pop, one which is as utterly delectable and on full show for his fifth album, Chloë and the Next 20th Century.
It’s been four years since Tillman last provided a glimpse into the Father John Misty world. In a societal landscape that has been riddled with bad news and anxiety, it is a welcome return as he provides the most opulent of escapes. Through his newest effort, Tillman showed off his knack for witty lyricism that perhaps lacked on the 2018 effort God’s Favourite Customer.
His presence has been missed over this period, but Misty’s silence has helped regain his enchanting mystique once more. The days of him mercilessly shitposting on social media are over, and Tillman has held back from giving scandalous interviews that previously propped up headlines around the globe. Now, the only insight into the psyche of Tillman is through his records.
The beauty of Father John Misty derives from not knowing at what point the character begins and where Tillman ends. All you can do is allow yourself to be immersed and enjoy the ride. The newest LP, meanwhile, begins in cinematic style with the enticing opening track, ‘Chloë’, which immediately grabs attention as Misty paints an alluring backdrop of old Hollywood, which he loosely uses as the canvas for the album.
It’s a style that frequently returns throughout the album, such as on the melancholia drenched ‘Kiss Me (I Loved You)’, which beautifully segues into the equally desolate ‘(Everything But) Her Love’. Yet, the high watermark of Tillman’s attempts to replicate a bygone era of Los Angeles is the seductively suave ‘Funny Girl’, which gracefully floats along.
It’s a position that Tillman has always had a foot in throughout his career, and it allows him to exhibit the best of his playful persona, which went into hiding on his last record.
Meanwhile, ‘Goodbye Mr Blue’ is a shot of Americana from that side of Father John Misty’s character, and the heartbreak ditty represents an unexpected shift from the title track. Tillman always gets a sick thrill from keeping the listener guessing, which perfectly aligns with his unpredictable nature.
The essence of Chloë and the Next 20th Century, however, is distilled in ‘Buddy’s Rendezvous’, a number that generates a feeling in the pits of your stomach when Misty sings the line, “Whatever happened to the girl I knew? In the wasteland, come up short and end up on the news” over the top of a heavenly brass arrangement.
FJM exhibits his wry rumour on ‘Q4’, which is his shot at the arts for sacrificing quality to meet the brisk demands of the financial calendar and follows the release of protagonist Simone’s memoir, which she stole from her dead sister. As bleak as it sounds on paper, Tillman turns it into a luxuriously irresistible affair.
Tillman bodes farewell to the album on the epic seven-minute finale ‘The Next 20th Century’, which brings proceedings to a close in grandiose style, which is just the way that Misty likes it.
Chloë and the Next 20th Century is the most eclectic of Misty’s works and displays him in 360°. If you’ve somehow been living under a rock for the last decade, then Tillman’s latest release is a fine place to get acquainted with his marvelling repertoire that continues to marvel.