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Music Review: Father John Misty


Photo Courtesy of Father John Misty

Article Written by Hannah Vandgrift


If you have ever watched Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” Netflix original series, you might have briefly seen a bearded white hipster musician appear in the third episode before brushing him off and going back to laughing at Ansari’s hilariously terrible date experience.

Well, that man is Father John Misty. Is he another bearded white hipster musician? Yes. Is he brilliant? Yes. In fact, he is the bearded white hipster musician. Unlike every other BWHM (easier to make it into an acronym), Father John Misty mixes satire, irony, and actual emotion into his lyrics, channeling deep depression as well as deep love into reflections on human nature and society.
Father John Misty, or, Joshua or J. Tillman, is a singer-songwriter, formerly in the indie rock bands “Fleet Foxes”, “Saxon Shore”, as well as many others. He recently released his third album under his moniker Father John Misty, entitled slightly ironically, “Pure Comedy”. Misty is taking a slower path in this new album, which is vastly different from his previous, more romantic album, “I Love You, Honeybear”.
The album begins as if it is starting to tell a story. Misty is satirical in his descriptions of humans, as if he is trying to imagine what aliens might think of our sad but comedic existence. The reality of his lines hit hard, “The only thing that seems to make them feel alive is the struggle to survive/But the only thing that they request is something to numb the pain with.” He ends with the slightly depressing but possibly uplifting, “I hate to say it, but each other’s all we got”.
And that’s just the first song. Misty continues with his critique of mankind, letting us know that he knows exactly what he is doing in “Ballad of the Dying Man”, which is most likely a song about himself. He sings: “So says the dying man once I’m in the box/Just think of all the overrated hacks running amok/And all of the pretentious, ignorant voices that will go unchecked/The homophobes, hipsters, and 1%/The false feminists he’d managed to detect/Oh, who will critique them once he’s left?”
The following song, “Birdie”, drops to a slower, sadder tune, imagining a utopia without violence, gender, or race, but as he sings, it makes you wonder if that would really be better than where we are right now?
The song, “Leaving L.A.”, is much more personal rather than existential, a 13-minute masterpiece in the middle of the album that one cannot begin to explain. It is part epic poem, part personal anecdote, and part deadpan humor, that ends in the middle of a sentence, trailing off into nothingness.
Some songs are subtly political, in “Two Wildly Different Perspectives”, which comments on how in politics or human nature, we fail to agree even if we’re sometimes saying the exact same thing, “One side says ‘Kill ’em all.’/The other says ‘Line those killers up against the wall.’/But either way some blood is shed.”
The album ends with the slow “In Twenty Years or So” which takes the existential view he’s been singing about the whole song, and puts it into perspective, letting us know things will be okay. “But I look at you/As our second drinks arrive/The piano player’s playing ‘This Must Be the Place’/And it’s a miracle to be alive.”
Some of his songs are so abstract that one most likely has to be on drugs in order to understand what he is saying, while others are so hard-hitting that they kind of make you want to jump off a roof. Then again, he also makes you desire life while we still can, because we’re all just ghosts in in cheap rental suits clinging to a rock hurtling through space.
If you find yourself feeling a mix of these emotions, that’s when you know you’re listening to Father John Misty.