Father John Misty - Chloe & The Next 20th Century

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Father John Misty's combination of caustic wit and staggering talent as both a vocalist and songwriter has resulted in a catalog of varied, consistently strong albums, but he reaches new levels of refinement and grandeur on fifth album Chloë and the Next 20th Century. With earlier output, Misty (aka Josh Tillman) put his bile-dripping storytelling and darkly comical character sketches at the forefront of his songs, using instrumentation as an accessory for his scathing commentary and depraved character sketches. This took the form of epic, sometimes overblown production on 2017's Pure Comedy and stripped-down, vocals-forward rock on 2018's God's Favorite Customer. Chloë and the Next 20th Century, however, is a softer, more thoughtful reading on FJM's sound, toning down his often ugly observations by letting gorgeous orchestral arrangements and gently beautiful songwriting occupy equal space with his persona. The Tin Pan Alley instrumentation that starts the album on jaunty opener "Chloë" sets a tone of timelessness, as it draws on the carefree, strolling energy of '70s songwriters like Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson, softening the snark and vitriol of Tillman's typically sharp lyrical content. "Goodbye Mr. Blue" goes so far as to rework Nilsson's 1968 hit "Everybody's Talkin'," sounding dangerously close to the original, but with lyrics about a couple uncomfortably coming back together over the death of their cat. "Funny Girl" is similarly ornate, with cinematic touches supporting a loungey lope. Tillman explores torch song territory on the sweetly sad "Buddy's Rendezvous" and a bossa nova sway on "Olvidado (Otro Momento)." While the arrangements on 2015's I Love You, Honeybear could be similarly grand at times, Father John Misty has never turned in anything as ambitious as the impeccable sonic tailoring of Chloë and the Next 20th Century. Fans who fell in love with Tillman's sharp social commentary will find plenty to hone in on, but the lush sounds take some of the bite out of his clever barbs and cynical perspectives on love and connection. Even with the strong, considered design of his previous albums, Father John Misty has never sounded so pleasant.

A1 Chloë
A2 Goodbye Mr. Blue
A3 Kiss Me (I Loved You)
B1 (Everything But) Her Love
B2 Buddy's Rendezvous
B3 Q4
C1 Olvidado (Otro momento)
C2 Funny Girl
C3 Only a Fool
D1 We Could Be Strangers
D2 The Next 20th Century