Album of the Year, Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
by Clayton Shaw
On his third album, Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) tackles the absurd normality of life in the modern day with a winning combination of philosophy and satire. ‘Pure Comedy’ is certainly Father John Misty’s most ambitious and experimental album to date, with full orchestras and more electronic sounds and samples scattered throughout, yet the album still retains the feel of Misty’s signature folk sound as well as the former Fleet Foxes drummer’s loveable charisma and arguably, arrogance.
On the albums opener and title track ‘Pure Comedy’, Misty ops for a slow ballad in which across six and a half minutes he croons lyrics that trivialise every aspect of modern life, the opening lyrics ‘The comedy of man, starts like this, our brains are way too big for our mother’s hips’, really sets the tone for not just this song, but the whole album. The song soon moves away from childbirth and begins to tackle other things such as gender roles, religion and celebrity culture, as well as taking a stab at Donald Trump. As the song approaches the huge climactic chorus and comes to an end it impossible not to think about the glorious piece of music that you’ve just heard.
Another song on the album that stands out is the suitably named ‘Total Entertainment Forever’, a song about technology and they we use it to entertain ourselves. The song’s opening lyric ‘Bedding Taylor Swift, every night inside the Oculus Rift’, which caused outrage with Swift’s fans, instantly hooks you and from then on your once again at completely controlled by Misty as he weaves a woeful tale of a culture of instant gratification at the hands of technology.
About halfway through the album is a slow song that is over 13 minutes long titled ‘Leaving LA’. This song is a much more introverted song than the rest of the tracks on ‘Pure Comedy’, as it’s more self-analytical and a personal song to Tillman, that even features a story about him choking from his childhood. The song has a very sombre feel yet contrastingly uplifting at the same time and despite the songs length and repetitive nature, it doesn’t get boring.
The rest of the album holds up well too, songs such as ‘The Memo’, which features an interesting use of sampling, mid song a robotic voice appears from nowhere stating ‘You are listening to the chilled winter playlist’, and for a split second you find yourself checking your phone in confusion before realising it is just another part of the song.
Of course Father John Misty sceptics could argue that ‘Pure Comedy’ is nothing more than a collection of pessimistic observations and sad songs, but there is something more to the album. The songs all contain a layer of depth within the pessimism that provide a different attitude towards the world. Whilst Misty may still in many ways be a folk singer he is definitely the thinking man’s folk singer and as well as being the most exciting album that he has released to date ‘Pure Comedy’ might also be the best album released this year.