With last year's vast concept album Pure Comedy having explored the human condition as a whole, from a bird’s eye view, Father John Misty rapidly returns to the topic of love, albeit from a much more personal perspective. Tillman himself describes his latest effort as “The real I Love You, Honeybear, without the cynicism.” Though his trademark sarcasm and wit still find their place on God’s Favorite Customer, this is definitely a more sincere and stripped back set of songs.

One of the draws of a Father John Misty album is its incredibly comedic lyricism and cynical approach. Nonetheless, Tillman is no stranger to writing a straight, earnest song. Consider the very simplistic 'Real Love Baby', which despite its incredibly cheesy and underdeveloped lyrics, still managed to capture the charm of Tillman's more complex work. On Customer, Tillman doesn’t aim for that simple style but does take a straightforward approach to most of the songs on the album, creating an accessible approach to the topics on each track. Sometimes this works in his favour, creating intimate ballads that really capture genuine emotion; take 'The Palace' which, without utilizing metaphor, manages to communicate Tillman’s loneliness and reliance on his wife in a passionate and effective track. Though, on other tracks that try to achieve the same goal, like the title track, it ends up feeling repetitive and underwhelming. At this point in Tillman’s career, he has been dealing in love-ridden folk songs on every project, and that leaves us with more to be desired on this album; often it feels like a step back from the instrumental work on his previous albums.

Though much of the album takes a simplistic approach in its instrumentals, a few tracks offer creative production that would parallel the most interesting tracks on I Love You, Honeybear or Pure Comedy. Doom-ridden opening track 'Hangout at The Gallows' has a constant rattling throughout, backed by vast climactic strings, offering a sense of dread that really tries to set a tone for the album. Tillman sings of his relationship hanging from a thread over a crescendo of interweaving instruments. Unfortunately, this track sets a bar which is not reached by the rest of the LP. Of course, there are still great tracks following on, like the lead single 'Mr Tillman' which openly explore paranoia and isolation - his own isolation - that before now has barely been explored. Even in both of the music videos for this album depict Father John Misty stuck in hotel rooms, surrounded by alcohol and losing his mind. It's a clear vision of the mental state of Josh, which again adds a personal weight to each track, showcasing a new-found honesty in what started as an exaggerated created persona.

However, despite this wounded approach giving pathos to the incredibly raw lyricism, it is hard to not look past that and see that a lot of time the album the album just feels like constant crooning over a strummed acoustic guitar or piano. Especially when songs like 'Date Night' show how interesting Tillman can still be on this album. There’s a sense of urgency that separates it from the tracklist, not to mention its infectious piano key and synth pairing. In 'The Songwriter' Father John Misty reverses the situation and imagines his wife as the songwriter; he explores the damage his work could be doing to her, as he bares his whole life on record - but this layered subject matter seems to not be conveyed in the solo piano instrumental at all.

This is the main challenge of God’s Favorite Customer: having to stand out after Tillman’s most ambitious, lyrically complex and diverse album to date. Though Pure Comedy was polarizing and God’s Favorite Customer may be less dense, and easier to access, it is clear which of the two stands out. In fact, the latest album sticks out as the weakest of Father John Misty’s four albums thus far. Though it can still reach the heights of Tillman’s songwriting and production, it often feels like B-sides to his previous efforts - less built, understated, and under-realized. The most interesting tracks are found at the top end of the album, leaving the rest to wallow in their shadow. Even when an interesting concepts pop up on 'Date Night' or 'Disappointing Diamonds are the Rarest of them All', they are short-lived and quickly return to a stripped back, crooned ballad. True, God’s Favorite Customer isn’t a bad album, yet it still feels like the weak link in the grand scheme of things. Fans of his previous work will still get a lot out of Misty's latest, but despite its subject matter, this album feels a little safe and inconsequential.