April 19 — BALLAD OF THE DYING MAN, Father John Misty (2017)

IMG_1779It’s easy to let nostalgia and persona overshadow a very important fact: young Elton John was a damn fine songwriter. Early works like 1970’s “Tumbleweed Connection” were the framework for a career unrivaled, now going on 50 years.

Father John Misty has been making records in a variety of incarnations for a dozen years. But with his new album, Misty enters an arena reserved for singer-songwriters whose work holds up for generations — Jackson Browne, Harry Nilsson, and especially Elton John.

On the ironically titled “Pure Comedy,” Misty’s vocal delivery is eerily similar to John’s, and so are the melodies. But there’s more texture to Misty’s songs, more nuance, and the arrangements certainly spread much wider. Most of the songs last six minutes or more — two are at ten minutes plus — and none seem to be in a hurry to arrive anywhere. It’s not easy to see where the path is leading, but it’s a peaceful if sometimes dreary journey.

“Pure Comedy” is the finest, most timeless record of the year. Fifty years from now, maybe we’ll see it as a touchstone album that transcended generations.


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