God’s Favorite Customer, by the delightfully enigmatic Father John Misty, is an achievement in heartbreak. This monolithic character, the brainchild of ex-Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman, had previously been seen to express only smug cynicism, reckless abandon, and infatuation. Customer is a dramatic break from this, representing an era of personal crisis that seemingly shook his life to the core. The lyrics are potent, the arrangements are haunting, and Misty’s media silence before and after its release is deafening. All this adds up to a truly visceral album that has not lost any of its sheer force since its release. Alex Turner, take note: this is how moody, soft piano rock is meant to sound.
The album is a tight ten tracks, in a year where brevity did many artists a lot of favours. It really is all killer, no filler – a welcome development to some after the daunting 75-minute length of his last album – with no obvious weak spots. There are several standouts of typical, sarcastic Misty fare, such as ‘Date Night’, which would sound right as home on Fear Fun. In this vein we also have ‘Mr. Tillman’ and ‘Disappointing Diamonds are the Rarest of Them All’, two upbeat indie-folk rockers where Misty’s cutting humour takes centre-stage.
This is all well and good, but nothing we haven’t heard already. And that’s when Misty rolls out ‘Hangout at the Gallows’, a song that feels like falling down a spiral staircase in a good way, ‘Please Don’t Die’, which makes for one of the most emotional points on the album, and the title track, where singer Weyes Blood manages to steal Misty’s spotlight with an incredible vocal. The richness in sound is immediately felt, with other contributors including Mark Ronson of ‘Uptown Funk’ on bass. Not many other albums this year could compete with Misty’s sense of melody and orchestration, pulling together on Customer a reprieve from Pure Comedy’s somewhat overused string sections with lush, organic rock. Not only does Customer hit all the right notes thematically, it doubles down with perhaps the best-arranged songs of the year.
I once heard Father John Misty’s music described as something like “Elton John on poppers”; a fitting comparison on most occasions but a far more appropriate one exists for Customer. Listening side-by-side with John Lennon’s seminal Plastic Ono Band, the parallels are clear, and they only strengthen with subsequent listens. It utilises comparable subject matter, the same analogue recording techniques, even some eerily similar chord progressions (for a great example, listen to ‘Isolation’ by Lennon and ‘The Palace’ by Father John). But this is no cheap, or even deliberate, imitation. God’s Favorite Customer could only be made by Father John Misty, and that is perhaps the best thing that can be said about it. Plastic Ono Band is rightly regarded as one of the seminal albums of the genre and the era; Misty completes the comparison by producing a classic of his own discography and one of the most cohesive albums released this year.
God’s Favorite Customer was released on 1st June via Bella Union.