Self indulgent, romanticizing of the past, Father John Misty’s ‘Chloë and the Next 20th Century’ only succeeds at underwhelming

Darren Puccala, Life & Arts Reporter

Romantic and nostalgic, Father John Misty’s Chloë and the Next 20th Century serves as an homage to the music of a foregone era. Misty, known offstage as singer-songwriter Josh Tillman, previously toured with the indie-folk band Fleet Foxes. 

Chloë and the Next 20th Century, Misty’s fifth studio album, released to streaming services on April 8, boasting 11 folky, jazzy tracks. Throughout his career, Misty relied on his natural ability to create a compelling, individual story from song to song. Thankfully for Misty fans, his storytelling stands as one of the album’s greatest strengths. However, Misty’s attempt to revitalize and change his sound underwhelms with a lack of standout tracks or memorable moments on a bloated 50-minute album.

Chloë and the Next 20th Century starts off with the opening track “Chloë,” an unorthodox leap into a more jazzy sound, which feels unusual for a typical Father John Misty song. Misty’s past work exemplifies the influence of strong romantic themes, and his songwriting heavily leans into overwhelming lust and love — an idea that typically goes hand in hand with jazz. Unfortunately, Misty brings nothing of substance to this track, leading to a mere half-hearted attempt at a modern pop-jazz sound. Although fun and whimsical, this opener ultimately feels like Father John Misty doing his best Michael Bublé impression, and, realistically, how good can a Michael Bublé impression be? 

The best of Misty’s story writing, “Goodbye Mr. Blue,” is a somber song about repeated attempts to fix a doomed relationship. Sonically, this song heavily leans on the style of late ‘60s and ‘70s songwriters with simple guitar chords that create a mystical, safe feeling that compliments his vocal performance well.  

However, the album’s middle tracks offer nothing remotely special from a Father John Misty project. Lyrically, the song feels lackluster. Instrumentally, this 5-minute lull stands as the least adventurous sounding project this year. An insufferable listening experience from start to end, “Buddy’s Rendezvous” easily wins the award for worst track on the album. An ironic concept, the track chronicles a terrible reconnection of an estranged dad and daughter, which Misty attempts — and fails — to use as a lesson to listeners.   

The album bounces back with its closing tracks, which remain decently strong. Particularly, the final track, “The Next 20th Century,” serves as an earnest closeout, turning the cameras back on Misty and allowing a reflective look at how far he has come as an artist. 

Paying homage to previous sounds can lead to a beautiful progression of music, but when an artist chooses to do nothing to further the sound, they create an album that does very little to gauge an audience who has heard it all before. Unfortunately, Misty falls into the latter category. 

2 love ballads out of 5