Pure Comedy

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Pure Comedy
Pure Comedy.jpg
Studio album by Father John Misty
Released April 7, 2017 (2017-04-07)
Recorded March 2016
Studio
  • United Recording
  • Five Star Studios
Genre
Length 74:17
Label
Producer
Father John Misty chronology
I Love You, Honeybear
(2015)I Love You, Honeybear2015
Pure Comedy
(2017)
God's Favorite Customer
(2018)God's Favorite Customer2018
Singles from Pure Comedy
  1. "Pure Comedy"
    Released: January 23, 2017
  2. "Two Wildly Different Perspectives"
    Released: January 30, 2017
  3. "Ballad of the Dying Man"
    Released: February 1, 2017
  4. "Total Entertainment Forever"
    Released: March 4, 2017
  5. "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution"
    Released: April 6, 2017

Pure Comedy is the third studio album by American folk musician Josh Tillman under his pseudonym Father John Misty. Its release was announced on January 23, 2017. It was released on April 7, 2017 on Bella Union in the UK and Europe and on Sub Pop in the rest of the world.[4] This is Tillman's third studio album since his departure from Fleet Foxes. It was produced by Josh Tillman in collaboration with Jonathan Wilson, sound engineer Trevor Spencer and composer/double-bassist Gavin Bryars.[4]

Production[edit]

Songwriting[edit]

Most of Pure Comedy was written in 2015.[5] It touches on themes of progress, technology, fame, the environment, politics, aging, social media, human nature, human connection and his own role in it all. Tillman included an 1800-word-long essay about its symbolism and meaning in the release announcement email to his fan club.

Pure Comedy is the story of a species born with a half-formed brain. The species’ only hope for survival, finding itself on a cruel, unpredictable rock surrounded by other species who seem far more adept at this whole thing (and to whom they are delicious), is the reliance on other, slightly older, half-formed brains. This reliance takes on a few different names as their story unfolds, like “love,” “culture,” “family,” etc. Over time, and as their brains prove to be remarkably good at inventing meaning where there is none, the species becomes the purveyor of increasingly bizarre and sophisticated ironies. These ironies are designed to help cope with the species’ loathsome vulnerability and to try and reconcile how disproportionate their imagination is to the monotony of their existence.[6]

Recording[edit]

Pure Comedy was recorded in March 2016 at United Recording Studios in Los Angeles. Its basic tracking and vocals were recorded live, in no more than two takes each. It was mixed by Tillman, Wilson and sound engineer Trevor Spencer, and mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering Studios. Featured instruments include strings and horns. Bryars, along with additional contributors Nico Muhly and Thomas Bartlett, provided choral arrangements.[5]

Promotion[edit]

Short film[edit]

In light of the album announcement, Tillman released his 25-minute short film Pure Comedy: The Film, captured by a six-person room throughout the recording of the album.[7] He co-directed with Grant James. It is a monochromatic depiction of the live tracking and Tillman’s writing process.

Singles[edit]

The single "Pure Comedy" was released on January 23, 2017 with a music video animated by Matthew Daniel Siskin featuring snippets of popular Internet videos.[8]

The album's second single, "Two Wildly Different Perspectives", was released with a music video also animated by Siskin, and also containing popular videoclips, on January 30, 2017.[9]

The third single released was "Ballad of the Dying Man" on February 1, 2017.[10]

The fourth single, "Total Entertainment Forever", was released on the night it was performed on Saturday Night Live (along with "Pure Comedy") on March 4, 2017.[11]

Other music videos[edit]

On April 26, 2017, a music video produced by Adam Green was released for "Total Entertainment Forever". It features a crucified Macaulay Culkin as Kurt Cobain seen in a virtual reality world pictured in papier-mâché.

Jacknife Films , a production company best known for their work on Radiohead's "Burn the Witch" and Run the Jewels's "Don't Get Captured" music videos, has taken on the project of a music video for "Things It Would Have Been Helpful To Know Before the Revolution" that was released on August 3, 2017.

Pure Comedy world tour[edit]

The Pure Comedy world tour, initially meant to be in the form of a musical,[12] began in April 2017 and will continue until early 2018.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
AnyDecentMusic?8.1/10[13]
Metacritic85/100[14]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[15]
The A.V. ClubB+[16]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[3]
The Guardian5/5 stars[17]
The Independent4/5 stars[18]
Mojo5/5 stars[19]
NME5/5 stars[20]
Pitchfork7.6/10[21]
Q4/5 stars[22]
theneedledrop9/10[23]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[24]

Pure Comedy received acclaim from critics. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 85, based on 36 reviews, which signifies "universal acclaim".[14] A review from The Record Store Clerk remarked that "Pure Comedy (shows) a mature artist proving that he can continue to make music at the top of his game and likely will for years to come."[25] In a highly positive review for Chorus.fm, Aaron Mook writes, "Pure Comedy is a gorgeous album, an album that will remain important in the context of Tillman’s career, but above all things, it’s a genuine album. Sometimes, it’s hard to empathize with someone who refuses to tell you what you want to hear – especially if what they’re saying is true."[26]

However, the album did divide some critics. No Ripcord gave the album a 4/10, saying "One of the most frustrating releases of recent times. Tracks meander insipidly, crushed by the weight of a solipsistic 'message' and the real moments of quality only serve as a reminder of what might have been."[27] Spin stated, "He’s not really in a fun mood, and the music follows. The lushness has diminished, and the work evokes increasing comparisons to ‘70s singer-songwriters like Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson, who hid their acidic commentary within sturdy pop structures."[28]

Pure Comedy received nominations for Best Alternative Music Album and Best Recording Package for its deluxe edition at the 60th Grammy Awards, winning the latter in a tie with Magín Díaz' El Orisha de la Rosa.[29][30]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Rank Ref.
Drowned in Sound Favourite Albums of 2017
71
Exclaim Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums of 2017
11
Loud and Quiet Top 40 Albums of 2017
23
NME NME's Albums of the Year 2017
4
New York Daily News The 25 Best Albums of 2017
17
RIOT Mag RIOT's Albums Of The Year 2017
8
Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2017
19
Rough Trade Albums of the Year 2017
23
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2017
22
The Skinny The Skinny's Top 50 Albums of 2017
50
The Sunday Times 100 Best albums of the year
1
Uncut 75 Best Albums of 2017
13
Uproxx All The Best Albums of 2017
5
Vinyl Me, Please The 30 Best Albums of 2017
4

Commercial performance[edit]

Pure Comedy debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 with 35,000 album-equivalent units, of which 33,000 were pure album sales.[45]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Josh Tillman.

No.TitleLength
1."Pure Comedy"6:23
2."Total Entertainment Forever"2:53
3."Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution"4:18
4."Ballad of the Dying Man"4:50
5."Birdie"5:19
6."Leaving LA"13:11
7."A Bigger Paper Bag"4:41
8."When the God of Love Returns There'll Be Hell to Pay"4:04
9."Smoochie"3:45
10."Two Wildly Different Perspectives"3:12
11."The Memo"5:16
12."So I'm Growing Old on Magic Mountain"9:58
13."In Twenty Years or So"6:27
Total length:74:17

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Pure Comedy reached the first position on the Billboard Rock Albums,[46] Alternative Music,[47] and Folk Music[48] charts on the week of April 29, 2017, a first for Tillman.[49]

Chart (2017) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[50] 14
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[51] 25
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[52] 64
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[53] 21
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[54] 32
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[55] 16
French Albums (SNEP)[56] 121
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[57] 60
Irish Albums (IRMA)[58] 7
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[59] 37
Portuguese Albums (AFP)[60] 10
Scottish Albums (OCC)[61] 7
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)[62] 36
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[63] 18
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[64] 32
UK Albums (OCC)[65] 8
US Billboard 200[45] 10

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Father John Misty: Pure Comedy « American Songwriter". americansongwriter.com. April 5, 2017. 
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  6. ^ Records, Sub Pop. "Pure Comedy". Sub Pop Records. Retrieved January 28, 2017. 
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  11. ^ "Father John Misty references Taylor Swift in new song, 'Total Entertainment Forever'". 
  12. ^ Paumgarten, Nick (June 26, 2017). "Father John Misty's Quest to Explain Himself". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. 
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