Father John Misty, or Josh Tillman as he’s known to his mother, provided drums for the sheep-kettling folksters Fleet Foxes before focusing his full attention on his own solo project. Having maintained a steady flow of solo work since 2004, he distributed self made CD’s at his earlier shows and supported himself by working in a bakery. All this culminated into the release of his critically acclaimed 2012 album Fear Fun under the moniker “Father John Misty”.
The enigmatic Father John Misty takes a good hard look at the world and what results is I Love You, Honeybear, an ambitious album filled with raw honesty and love.
Tillman, now 33, offers us his second Father John Misty outing in the form of the excellent I Love You, Honeybear. A rousing, velvet soft album which serves itself up in an almost Lana Del Rey-esque way. The broad horn sections and sweeping orchestral movements coupled with the spider-web thin guitar delivery make this album sonically pleasing. You’ll never understand this more than in the opening title track I Love You, Honeybear. Not only are we party to a swirling, heady musical ensemble but the lines “Everything is doomed and nothing will be spared,” seem to epitomise just exactly what Father John Misty is about. Funnily enough though, this is quite a sanguine track. With the counter lyrics “The future can’t be real, I barely know how long a moment is, unless we’re naked getting high on the mattress, while the global market crashes,” the hopelessness of the world is all but lost on two lovers but through the only form of expression lovers understand, the meanderers and dullards are basically told to fuck off.
The album’s second track Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) shows us Josh Tillman’s L.A. world. Penned about Tillman’s old haunt Chateau Marmont, it centres around a Maharishi-drenched beat with interloping brass, strings and of course that fragile acoustic. It’s cheesy lounge lizard undertones add a welcomed humour. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he said of Chateau Marmont “I think coming here is kind of the most honest thing you can do in L.A., because the whole city orbits around celebrity, and anyone who tells you there’s anything else going on is deluding himself.” Also: “I like the spaghetti Bolognese.”.
We then turn at break-neck speed towards a completely unexpected region consisting of synths and drum machines with True Affection. Not exactly what is needed at this point in all honesty, but perhaps it’s the whiplash awarding turn away from the traditionally sounding opening tracks that keeps this album fresh. After the third or fourth listen, I’m still not expecting it, but at least know I can appreciate the depth it adds to the record.
If you haven’t pieced it together by this point, this is most definitely a concept album. Reflecting on falling in love with his now-wife Emma Tillman, it comes to it’s poignant best on The Ideal Husband with the panic-driven line “Let’s put a baby in the over, wouldn’t I make the ideal husband?”. Probably, Josh, because with the record’s lead single Bored In the U.S.A. we’re enlightened with a humorous, yet scathing outlook on the world. Never have I heard such a unique track since Postcards From Italy by Beirut. Armed with a ridiculing laughter track, this is by far a special song which brings capitalist culture into a direct spotlight and mocks it thoroughly. Showcased on Letterman with a self playing piano, Bored In the U.S.A. allows Tillman to express himself at his very best and encases lessons for his future offspring.
Allowing for all of this, it could be hard to top Bored in the U.S.A. in terms of songwriting prowess. However, penultimate song Holy Shit does just this. It’s never been more pertinent to sing “Oh, and Love is just an institution based on human frailty” than at this point. With tongue-in-cheek cleverness in abundance, it’s safe to say that I Love You, Honeybear will not allow itself to be devoured by the bastardised dour world we occupy; it’s comforting to know that whilst life may be futile, we all share the same inner turmoil and Father John Misty makes that thought just a bit more bearable.
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