Sequels take listeners in new directions

Father John Misty — ‘God’s Favorite Customer’
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Josh Tillman takes his fourth album as Father John Misty in a new direction.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Released a mere 14 months after the 2017 epic “Pure Comedy,” “Customer” was written during a prolific two months Tillman spent holed up in a New York City hotel room. It also peels away some of the past’s pretentiousness. “Customer” probably is the closest we’re ever getting to Misty indie POP.
This is one tight affair, with 10 songs in just under 40 minutes. Practically every cut boasts a dedicated hook that grabs you immediately. One might even consider a tune such as “Mr. Tillman” — dare I say it — bouncy. Most of the time, a full band augments Misty, and not just guitars and drums but woodwinds, too. I’m not sure if the guy wanted to lighten the mood, but he certainly does just that during “Customer,” the man’s most easily approachable record to date.
BUY IT?: Definitely.

Dawes — ‘Passwords’
THE GOOD: California folk-rock group Dawes get somewhat political on its sixth.
THE BAD: “Passwords” is musically interchangeable with past albums. Still, long-time fans simply looking for their bi-annual fix should be cool.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Most bands have dabbled in world events since our 2016 presidential election and Brexit. Add Dawes to that conscientious list. Here, though, in typical mellow California style, the group tries to see matters from both sides and arrive at some sort of middle ground (“Declare no winners or losers/And forgive our shared mistakes”). Conflict resolution is key.
Arrangements are smooth and calculated. Frontman Taylor Goldsmith offers a fine and sometimes reserved voice throughout, with steady backbeats, tasteful guitar, pedal steel in all the right places, string flourishes for added color, etc. Both the musical direction and lyrics put “Passwords” literally in the middle of the road.
So, this will NOT be the most exciting record you hear this year. But that doesn’t mean the enjoyable set isn’t worth the effort.
BUY IT?: Your call.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — ‘Hope Downs’
THE GOOD: After teasing us with a couple of solid EPs, Australian indie rock group Rolling Blackouts C.F. delivers its first full-length LP.
THE BAD: No gripes.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Listening to “Hope Downs,” one is immediately transformed back in time circa 1987. That is, IF you listened to music that mattered — I.R.S.-era R.E.M., jangly Go-Betweens, Replacements after it tightened up, fellow Aussies the Hoodoo Gurus and the decorative guitar prowess of the Church. All those elements get shoved into these contemporary tunes and sound FRESH again, especially if you’re a 15-year-old kid just discovering these dynamics. By the way, if that is the case, do your homework, go back and check out all of those aforementioned bands. You’re welcome.
In the meantime, the rest of us will relish in a modern group defying expectations and playing by its own rules. “Hope Downs” is both guitar pop bliss and slightly agitated, noisy jams. And Rolling Blackouts C.F. makes it all marvelous.
BUY IT?: Yep.