Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, has been very busy since leaving the Fleet Foxes. His solo career took off with his record Fear Fun and he has never looked back. Ten years, a few LPs and a couple EPs later he is back with Chloë and the Next 20th Century and one of the singles Goodbye Mr. Blue. Father John Misty has explored a number of music genres throughout his career, so let’s see what he has cooked up now.
Misty’s previous records have explored psychedelic folk, big band, circus and some straight up indie rock / pop. He was born in Maryland, but moved to LA shortly before recording Fear Fun and has remained there ever since. The LA scene and California / west coast sound has always crept its way into his music and Goodbye Mr. Blue is no different. Laid back guitar picking over some electric slide and strings gives you a Big Sur vibe and you can almost see the mountain flowers bloom. There is a west coast / Colorado 70s folk aesthetic spread over this entire track…like a layer of smooth peanut butter over a slice of rustic wholegrain sourdough. That is to say, that even if the instrumentation is easy going the song has heat and soul to it. Misty really strips this song back and there is very minimal arrangement to speak of, which is unlike the rest of the record’s complex musical / sonic structure. You can feel the sun on your face as this track drifts through your consciousness.
Misty’s vocals have always been amazing. They are a bit further back in the mix on this track, which gives them an ethereal quality. The entire track is giving be strong 70s John Denver vibes, like Follow Me or Goodbye Again. Similar to Goodbye Again, Misty sings about how he must leave too soon bound for a journey that is difficult to explain. The song then reaches an existential place as he sings about mortality and death. Mr. Blue is a cat that has died and triggered an existential crisis of mortality, while also bringing the narrator and his love together. The song may have started as a classic farewell / going on the road track, but it quickly moves to one of mortality and fractured love. Lyrically the song is quite complex, which is an interesting contrast to the rather minimal instrumentation.
I have to admit, Father John Misty was getting a bit too self – serious and preachy for me over the last few records. His usual subtle storytelling became more blunt and more one note. He was losing the excellent storytelling that made Fear Fun such a hit. Goodbye Mr. Blue is a return to form as Misty tells a complex story of love, connection, death, mortality and taking life for granted in a tight 5 minute folk track. I love how he has gone back to his folk roots and given us a 70s throwback gem. The rest of the record is quite different, but this track stands out as a singer songwriter at his best.
Listen to Goodbye Mr. Blue