Itinerant Arias will appeal to the working man and bearded hipster alike.ANTI-, 2017
7.3 / 10
Damn you, Josh Tillman. As Father John Misty, he’s got a vendetta against the folk industry, and its willingness to sell products. Just think about the commercials you see on TV. Doesn’t matter if it’s real estate, cars, prescriptions, or mops, but folk music sells the goods to the consumers. Tillman mocks this sometimes via his Soundcloud with parody songs. However, it also causes doubt to seep into while listening to albums from honest folk singer/songwriters. Are they just going to turn around and give these good songs up to whatever corporation opens its checkbook? I don’t want to think this is the case about Christopher Paul Stelling’s new album, Itinerant Arias. Mainly because it’s got some songs that are absolutely great.
Unlike Will Stratton‘s album, Rosewood Almanac, Stelling forgoes daintier melodies for ones with more grit and grime. His voice matches the music by sounding like he’s put it through a ringer of whiskey and cigarettes. It’s a performance that will appeal to the working man and bearded hipster alike. Also, his personality, sometimes sentimental and sometimes snarky, comes through with crystal clarity. It’s obvious in how he sings some of his lines. “Don’cha even bother askin’ what this is/ It’s the cost of doin’/ Business,” he sings with a sinister wink on “The Cost of Doing Business”. He sounds like a con man after hitting a big score.
“Destitute” is Stelling in his friendlier form. The song rides off an almost a familiar acoustic performance while its percussion sounds like a train on tracks. Stelling’s voice rises in the right moments while strings puncture the heart with sadness. But even with its somber touches, it’s a song that aims to cheer you up. As long as you got your buds, Stelling asserts you’re never truly destitute. “Destitute” is the song that comes closest to a Father John Misty parody. However, plenty of Stelling’s other songs block any chance of mockery. “Badguys” doesn’t lack a catchy hook (“Bad guys always win!”) and feels appropriate as a political narrative. However, it transforms into a swampy blues masterpiece in its climax as horns scream in all directions. No parody here, just intensity. However, I’m sure some business knows just how to fit it into a commercial.