Very few musicians can pull off being funny and yet so lyrical in the same line. Josh Tillman, otherwise known as Father John Misty, pulls the tongue in cheek throughout his sophomore album, I Love You, Honeybear.
What is intended to be a concept album about the marriage between Tillman and his wife, Emma Tillman, this builds on his 2012 debut under the Father John Misty moniker, Fear Fun. Whereas Fear Fun offered a country rock vibe, attached to a growing story of the conception of Tillman’s new direction, I Love You, Honeybear is a throwback to large, polished production reminiscent of a 70’s lounge singer. In the former, an exaggeration of his character is offered, a drug addicted, ladies man drifter, Tillman’s newest album finds him more at ease and down to earth with who he really is.
And still the genius of his songs admit this. A far more somber affair, tracks like “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The G****** Thirsty Crow” and “Bored In The USA” have mellow moods with very contemplative lyrics. “Nothing Good” delivers a moving reflection on what Tillman describes as being “disgusted with this version of myself”, the ladies man, now married and finding himself objectifying the women he loves. “Bored In The USA” is one of this year’s best songs, a satirical ballad critiquing middle class America. Opening with Tillman and a piano, strings subtly introduce themselves to the background, and as he begins to move the song to its climax, canned laughter echos into lines like “They gave me a useless education / And a subprime loan / On a craftsman home”. Simply put, pausing the romance to input his own personality in its entire, the cynical a****** his wife loves entirely and understands. Besides, if a song has a chorus with its singing demanding “Save me, white Jesus”, it’s a staple in my playlist.
The best song is easily the catchy “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”. A psychedelic collage of memories following the wedding as well as prior to, this track stands out as both the centerpiece of the album for its amazing production, its witty treatment of Tillman’s first admission of true love, and the beauty of it “You left a note in your perfect script: ‘Stay as long as you want’ / I haven’t left your bed since”.
The album ties itself together very well, only the out of place “True Affection” with its drum machine and electronic approach as well as the underwhelming “Ideal Husband” take away from its greatness.
While so many current musicians may be easy to pigeonhole or tuck into some category, Father John Misty remains to be one of the most vibrant musicians today. Although his live shows no longer feature the drunken, drug fueled stand up freak out routine they were, Tillman still plays his character with ease and grace, showing development artistically as well personally. Two of the best lines ever written were sung on this album, on penultimate track “Holy S***”, where “love is just institution based on human frailty” but in the same breath he asks “Maybe love is just an economy based on resource scarcity”. With the same kind of introspective cynicism of Bo Burnham, Father John Misty has crafted a sophomore album easily superior and hard to compare to other voices in music today.
Anthony Campbell // Staff Writer