On April 7, 2017, American folk artist Josh Tillman released his third album as Father John Misty, titled Pure Comedy, his first since 2015. Counting albums released under his real name, it is his eleventh.
The lead in on Pure Comedy, its titular track, is a well-produced orchestral piece spearheaded by a soft and repetitive piano loop that slowly introduces, element by element, a big band to put together a marvelous piece. It’s something reminiscent of Broadway but with less grandeur.
The next track, “Total Entertainment Forever”, employs a similar set of characteristics. Many of the other tracks on the album are the same. Although folk is clearly the bread and butter of Misty’s songwriting, the album demonstrates a strong to use various musical styles and instrumentation that are applied to the folk formula. However, towards the end of the album, the tone shifts away from these complex instrumentals to the more core features of folk music.
Father John Misty’s vocals are, albeit not immediately distinct from other folk singers of his age and station, well-delivered and pleasant. In no track on the album does Misty stray, for long, from a low and melodic drawl on the vocals. It can become a bit repetitive but is ultimately good. Some attention, good and bad, was brought to the the fact the album does touch on the realm of politics, and there is some unpleasantness in some of the lyrics, though it’s few and far between in the album as a whole. If there’s any qualms to be had about the lyrics themselves, then it would concern the sporadic way Misty hops between topics that makes it difficult to tie together a theme for some of the songs. This, however, may be by design to avoid predictability.
In conclusion, Pure Comedy is a quirky and wonderfully melodic album buoyed by its quality and enjoyable instrumentation, although held back by its repetitive nature and occasionally odd lyrics.
Even if you aren’t a fan of folk music, it’s arranged in such an accessible way that it reaches across genres and can find listeners everywhere.