Joshua Tillman says 'Goodbye Mr. Blue' with a sumptuous jazz collection on his fifth album as the enigmatic Misty.
Will the real Joshua Tillman please stand up?
Those tuning in to hear the withering, embittered socio-political commentary that Tillman has made an art of in the past decade as Father John Misty may be astonished by the notoriously world weary troubadour's new lust for life on his remarkable fifth album.
Chloë And The Next 20th Century is the closest we've come under the Misty moniker so far to hearing a straight up Tillman record, with the songwriter breaking through his absurdist persona to craft the most sincere album of his career to date.
Perhaps this relatively sudden change in tone will alienate a certain section of loyal Misty followers, but it would be hard for even the most jaded cynic to fault the glimmering beauty of Chloë's inspired jazz compositions throughout a sumptuous 50 minutes that encompasses the sounds of 20s Hollywood era jazz, cinematic big band, swing and bossanova as well as couple of Nilsson-esque 70s folk ballads scattered through the album that find Tillman at his most unabashed and romantic, with 'Goodbye Mr. Blue' in particular standing out early on as a quite lovely tribute to 1973 classic 'Everybody's Talkin'.
The usual Misty character pops up now and again, rearing his ugly head to remind us there's still a dark side to Tillman that will never quite die, most notably on 'The Next 20th Century', the ominous, industrial tinged outlier that closes the album on a pointedly unsettling note.
Drawing on Trent Reznor with it's freakish guitar feedback and intense layers of synth in place of the classic jazz standards that the vast majority of Chloë takes its cue from, this final track brings to mind a more familiar image of Misty - hiding behind a pair of sunglasses with a menacing grin as he ultimately can't resist fucking with fans just once after carefully crafting the most classy and elegant pieces to his name since his time with Fleet Foxes on Helplessness Blues all the way back in 2011.
By and large however, this collection of tracks unveils a new side to Tillman that may be hard to believe but is most welcome on the basis of the quality songwriting and compositional work on display throughout Chloë, with the 40 year old demonstrating not only a growth and maturity on a personal level but also sonically too, pulling off the most ambitious instrumental works of his career with aplomb.
It will be fascinating to see where Tillman goes from here, but whether this is just the beginning of pastures anew or simply a curious anomaly in the discography of the folkstar, Chloë And The Next 20th Century is essential listening for fans of the always compelling cult figure - and potentially the dawning of a new era for its revitalized lead character.
8.0 / B+
Best Tracks: 'Chloë'/'Goodbye Mr. Blue'/'The Next 20th Century'
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