The strongest voices are not always the loudest. In Father John Misty’s “Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution,” he uses his voice like an instrument to complement the piano and orchestra the way Frank Sinatra did when he collaborated with Nelson Riddle. The interplay between Father John Misty’s voice and the instruments shines in the live version of the song from Late Night with Seth Meyers.
He carries the song with his phrasing and modulation. Notice how at the 41-second mark he hits a high note (“orbited by trash”) without trying to overpower us with his obvious vocal range. He occasionally teases us with those high notes several times. When the horns and strings kick in, Father John Misty maintains his steady tone, punctuating certain words for emphasis, giving the song room to breathe. His style invites you to sit forward and really listen, whereas a lesser artist with such a compelling voice would try to bludgeon you.
“Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution” is one of the standout songs from Pure Comedy, one of the best albums of 2017. The song is an example of Father John Misty’s wry commentary on the human existence and a statement about the endurance of planet earth. His delivery makes the lyrics even more powerful. What is a song that moves you, and why?