Father John Misty, Josh Tillman’s alias, makes his bleak, wordy account of today’s human condition sound like a long-lost Elton John album from the early ’70s.
Drenched in piano and strings, ‘‘Pure Comedy’’ (Sub Pop) offers small measures of comic relief amid the misery, virtual reality, and hopes of keeping aging at bay.
Tillman, who has co-written recent Beyoncé and Lady Gaga songs and was formerly in Fleet Foxes, describes the travails of modern man in the First World, often making it seem like the apocalypse is just around the corner.
The album’s centerpiece is ‘‘Leaving LA,’’ Tillman’s ‘‘10-verse, chorus-less diatribe’’ lasting over 13 minutes, an autobiographical road song reflecting on everything from his fans’ possible reaction to the song itself to childhood trauma and the limitations of a pseudonym.
‘‘Ballad of the Dying Man’’ describes the last moments of one of those self-proclaimed guardians of the Internet, forever seeking to put someone in their place, while ‘‘When the God of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell to Pay’’ is a dim — but maybe accurate — evaluation of human nature, putting the onus on the Creator for even having had the thought of making us.
‘‘In Twenty Years or So’’ ends the album in grand fashion, one of Tillman’s more hopeful lyrics wrapped around a bit of Pink Floyd-like acoustic art-rock and a gut-wrenching coda with strings. ‘‘It’s a miracle to be alive . . . There’s nothing to fear,’’ he sings. But it’s hard to take that at face value and you can’t help but look for a darker interpretation.
As you check your social media account one last time, Tillman’s ballads gorgeously usher you to Armageddon. Or just another day.