Father John Misty – “Mr. Tillman”

You’d think that after crafting an album as ambitious and complex as Pure Comedy, an artist might want to take a breather. That doesn’t seem to be the case for Josh Tillman — who, after all, has been working at a pretty steady clip, releasing said gigantic ambitious album less than two years after his last masterpiece, 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear. (Both ended up as some of our favorite LPs in their respective years.) Talk of Pure Comedy’s followup started only months after it came out, with Tillman suggesting a 2018 arrival for a “pretty much done” work and then giving more details to Uncut.

Last week, video surfaced of him playing a new song called “Mr. Tillman” in Tokyo, a track that had popped up on a few other setlists and had occasionally been referred to as “Mr. Tillman, Please Exit The Lobby.” Now, we have the official studio version of the song. It’s arrived out of nowhere without any accompanying album details, but given Tillman’s recent talk of new material it seems doubtful that it’s a standalone akin to “Real Love Baby.” It appears Father John Misty Season approaches once more — if Father John Misty Season ever ended to begin with, that is.

Like the Honeybear highlight “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment,” “Mr. Tillman” finds FJM zooming out and talking of himself as a character. The song is primarily narrated by hotel staff, greeting and soon trying to calm Tillman down in a narrative that appears to depict a psychotic break: “Mr. Tillman, for the seventh time/ We have no knowledge of a film/ That is being shot outside/ Those aren’t extras in a movie, they’re our clientele/ No, they aren’t running lines, and they aren’t exactly thrilled, would you like/ A regalo on the patio/ Is there someone we can call/ Perhaps you shouldn’t drink alone.” They also mention that Jason Isbell’s there, and he’s worried about Tillman, too.

Compared to the state-of-the-world folk epics of Pure Comedy, “Mr. Tillman” recalls psychedelic elements from the first FJM album, 2012’s Fear Fun. But it’s also not quite like many other compositions Tillman’s released under the moniker. His vocal melody moves like a druggy, half-lidded incantation that constantly threatens to wake up into a scene that’s more explicitly unnerving, that persistent piano line working against it to give the whole thing this darkly dreamy atmosphere, a Lynchian veneer of prettiness over something more sinister. Check it out below.

UPDATE (3/1): And here’s some behind-the-scenes green screen footage of the “Mr. Tillman” video shoot, which seems very GIF-able:

Father John Misty’s new album is presumably coming later this year.