‘Chloe & The Next 20th Century’ Review: Father John Misty Returns

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“What is ‘really funny’ anyway?” Father John Misty asks on “Q4”, a single from Chloe and the next 20e Century† The track is the album’s clearest, most cutting satire, but this question feels serious, the stakes are intimate for the singer – as artist and person seeking connection in a modern wasteland.

On more than five albums, singer-songwriter Josh Tillman is an artisan of story songs delivered through absurdist personae, prancing ironic provocation with heartfelt croons and soaring folk-inspired instrumentation. on Chloesinger-songwriter Josh Tillman returns with his first new material since the Silent of 2018 God’s Favorite Customer† Written and recorded in Fall/Winter 2020, the album sees Tillman continuing to collaborate with multi-instrumentalist/producer Jonathan Wilson and engineer Dave Cerminara.

The eleven tracks often sound like mini film scores, with arrangements by Drew Erickson and lots of strings, brass and woodwinds. Tillman still trades in clever, allusive vignettes, but this time the tone is softer, blurrier and less sharp than from God or the Trump era of 2017 Pure comedy.

For a troubadour who calls himself a “sarcastic Michael Bublé,” the turn to a more golden melancholy is effective. The album opens with a curdled horn line and undiminished tame big band arrangements for the character study “Chloë”, and the listener thinks, Here comes the self ironing lounge lizard, sounding like the Beatles do vaudeville† (Which, to be honest, we love a lot.) But the next track, “Goodbye, Mr. Blue,” transitions into a sunny-sad Harry Nilsson-esque tune over Laurel Canyon guitar, the lyrics rehashing the ending of a relationship coincide with the death of a cat. Lines like “One down, eight to go, but it’s no less true / Won’t the last time come too soon?” are really funny – and genuinely sad.

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