The earliest I’d ever heard of Father John Misty was when my ultra-hipster friend became obsessed with the artist, proudly sporting homemade merch. So when it was suggested that I review his latest album, “Chloë and the Next 20th Century,” I had mixed feelings. Hipster indie music usually is not my preference, but I am always curious about what others listen to and enjoy. Unfortunately, listening to the album did not clear up my mixed feelings, and in fact, only confused them further.
“Chloë and the Next 20th Century” can be best described as an interesting fusion of modern folk and retro 1940’s and 1950’s swing, evoking images of a smokey nightclub where everyone is dressed to the nines. This format allows artist Joshua Tillman, better known as Father John Misty, to showcase the versatility of his voice, somehow able to fit in with the crooners of Fifties and the folk heroes of modern acclaim. The album’s 50 minute runtime also allows for the singer to demonstrate his highly praised songwriting skills.
The album’s opener, “Chloë,” sets the tone for the rest of the album, providing the retro swing feel that permeates the album. “Goodbye Mr. Blue,” a gentle folksy tune, is arguably the greatest song on the record, chronicling the heartbreaking story of the singer’s cat dying in his arms. Seriously, try to listen to this song while snuggling a cat without crying! It would probably be best to have tissues handy. “The Next 20th Century” starts modestly enough but builds to an excellent rock style crescendo that will make the rockers happy.
The album is supposed to be a concept album, which if you’ve read my previous reviews, you will know just how much I worship concept albums. Typically, concept albums are a collection of songs that share a common theme or tell a specific story, and they often require an intense amount of work on the part of the artist. This attention and dedication to the craft is precisely why I typically enjoy concept albums. However, this album does not quite scratch the same itch as other concept albums. “Chloë and the Next 20th Century” does have a uniting musical tone that stays fairly consistent throughout the entirety of the album, which gives credence to the fact that it is intended to be a concept album. However, the lyrical content was baffling and borderline pretentious that it was difficult to detect a narrative being told. Perhaps repeated and concentrated listens will increase one’s enjoyment, but for the casual listener, the evidence of a uniting concept feels to be absent.
“Chloë and the Next 20th Century” is an excellent addition to the vast catalog of sad boy indie music that is currently taking college campuses by storm. Even casual listening had me feeling like a sad boy hipster with an increased desire to hug my cat. However, for this particular reviewer, the album evokes mixed emotions, meeting my expectations but not going quite far enough to surpass them. “Chloë and the Next 20th Century” was not my cup of tea, but give it a listen before taking my word for it. However, I would keep a cuddly cat and a box of tissues handy, just in case.