Indie rock, folk artist Josh Tillman, under the name Father John Misty, released his third album, “Pure Comedy,” on April 7. After two years of songwriting, this album follows his 2015 album “I Love You, Honeybear,” and 2012 album “Fear Fun.”
Josh Tillman is a former member of the American indie folk band, Fleet Foxes. Father John Misty is the solo project that emerged after his departure from the band. Despite leaving, he retains the musical textures of Fleet Foxes while integrating new lyrics and instrumental techniques that label his music as his own.
In comparison to Father John Misty’s previous works, “Pure Comedy” pulls back the instrumentation of the entire album. Most of the songs are limited to the use of a drum kit, piano and guitar, with occasional interjections of other instruments or technology. This created a very intimate experience between the listeners and Tillman, as well as for Tillman alone. According to Rolling Stone, “Tillman has spoken about his struggles with severe depression, and you can read ‘Pure Comedy’ as his attempt to wrestle with psychic malaise.” The minimalist instrumentation is a direct reflection of the need to focus in on the importance of the lyrics, rather than the instrumental aesthetic beneath them.
The album confronts contemporary issues in our society that drive our obsessions and anxieties relating to the media and politics, a direct contrast from his previous album, which focused on the themes of love and marriage. The lyrics to “Pure Comedy” really resonate with this idea. It opens with a sample of a news anchor’s opening introduction, setting the scene for Tillman’s direct comment on American politics (“Where did they find these goons they've elected to rule them?”). These lyrics are an example of Tillman’s point of view of present America being truly unreal and totally comedic.
One track I was most drawn to was the closing track, “In Twenty Years or So.” While the lyrics are somewhat pessimistic – commenting on the idea that no matter what greatness we achieve life, we are all approaching the same fate of death – the track has some of the most unique features of the album. The song starts with Tillman singing over a simple guitar and piano riff, more like a folk tune. It then builds with the addition of synthesized strings and a steady rock beat from the drum kit. I was most attracted to the instrumental postludes at the end of the song. The postlude is a series of dissonances produced by synthesized strings in alteration with abrupt silences, both features that had not been explored with this type of depth through the rest of the album.
Although “Pure Comedy” has yet to present itself in high standings on billboard or iTunes charts, it’s certainly worth the listen. The album is reflective of ‘70s style singer-songwriters like Elton John or Neil Young. “Pure Comedy” continues to bring Tillman’s acoustic vibe that is perfect for any setting demanding relaxation.
Lucille Littlefield is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.