Fleet Foxes did not suffer the sophomore slump. In fact, their second LP Helplessness Blues was so well received that they seemed to found a different phenomenon: the sophomore peak, where after a six-year absence expectations for their third record were at fever pitch, and a similar level of rapturous acclaim was inevitably unattainable, especially for an album like this. Frontman Robin Pecknold, who’s singular voice defines the third of the band’s records in a way it hasn’t previously, posted on his (very wry) Instagram account a list of ‘inclinations’ for this cycle of music which largely comprise of defiance against the most celebrated characteristics of Helplessness Blues: “avoid singy-songy theatrical vocals” and “establish expectations, subvert expectations”. As a result, Crack-Up is more obtuse than even the subtler moments on Fleet Foxes’ debut, built instead on refused assertions, and contrasts. (more…)
How on earth do you write political music? As Josh Tillman, under the Father John Misty moniker, knows too well – people are partisan: every individual has an opposing opinion and almost all of them think they’re right. His third album, Pure Comedy, is so masterful because it manages to transcend politics, transcend partisanship and instead take a broader perspective – blending political tragedy with a literal cosmic view, all while retaining a deep intimacy. It was a talent he hinted towards on his previous record, as with the wonderful ‘Holy Shit’ from I Love You, Honeybear in which he sings “Maybe love is just an economy/Based on resource scarcity/What I fail to see is what that’s gotta do/With you and me?” Pure Comedy expands this sentiment over 75 minutes, exploring religion and the realpolitik, but asking (unsurprisingly for a songwriter often classed by critics and YouTube commentators alike as the most arrogant man on the indie scene)… what’s this all got to do with me?
Pure Comedy’s title track certainly lays it’s stall out early as a record that will address the capital-b Big Stuff about life on planet Earth: Tillman crooning “The comedy of man starts like this/Our brains are way too big for our mothers’ hips/And so Nature, she divines this alternative/We emerged half-formed and hope that whoever greets us on the other end/Is kind enough to fill us in”. He quickly defines himself as a songwriter looking at life from a macro point of view, but his words never lose their sense of affection, or wit. Pure Comedy, for all its nihilism, holds little in the way of naval gazing, or of blind didcatism: Tillman instead sings with great sincerity, concern and pain.