Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Album Review: Father John Misty- I Love You, Honeybear

Father John Misty
I Love You, Honeybear
****and1/2 out of *****

In a recent review we made mention to the tough notion of recognizing a wink in the Harry Nilsson musical vein or sincerity in today's artist. We should have saved that comparison because it is almost impossible to tell when the smirks end and the heartache begins on I Love You, Honeybear and the most beautiful thing? It doesn't matter at all.

This is the second album from Joshua Tillman (former drummer for the Fleet Foxes) under the Father John Misty name and while Fear Fun had its moments, I Love You, Honeybear is where Tillman has really found his stride. The mix between whining, self-absorbed first world issues and true desperation is vital, it could even act as a metaphor for (gasp!)...the real world!

The winks and absurdity starts before the album even rolls out with the cover art as Tillman has made himself in a bizarre Jesus manger setting on the cover. When the music rolls out it is gorgeously played and produced. Every sort of style, instrumentation and sound slapped in, sometimes in the same measure; there are no limits sonically here. He places simplistic country work like "Nothing Good" right smack next to bizarre overly dramatic and produced drug overdose numbers complete with beehive guitars, "Strange Encounter". 

Taken thematically the album works oddly well as a relationship arc with meeting and lusting during the opening title track, complete with its mind sticking lyric, "Mascara, blood, ash, and cum/on the Rorschach sheets/Where we make love". Then progressing through trumpet filled unorthodox proposal songs ("Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)") beyond to happy dance numbers ("True Affection") before turning to everyone's favorite self loathing and picking apart your lover phase ("The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment").

Tillman as a songwriter mixes that fear of self doubt about moving to adulthood with a yearning for love and release that is honest and open, even at times laughable. It could all be a game with snarky feelings as liberal doses of humor are present but things end on such an engaging run of songs that its hopelessness/hopefulness needs to be appreciated.  

"Ideal Husband" is the culmination of the adolescence to adulthood fear around a driving rhythm section allowing chaotic guitars to soar up  to an overloaded climax. The album could have stopped there but it only improves with "Bored in the USA" which takes the whole "is he serious?" to a new level and looks inward even with a laugh track inserted; the pun title/chorus puts things over the top.

Finally "Holy Shit" looks outward away from the chaos of self to the chaos in the world, wrestling with bigger issues and huge problems. Pianos and acoustic strumming cuts to the truths quickly as Tillman's vocals and lyrics shine brightest; this is a fantastic song on its own but places the album in context and raises the whole work of art.

The coda of  "I Went to the Store One Day" just proves we are on a spinning circular object and are bound to do it all again, a challenging exciting album that nails the current ethos, time and place of modern America with a pomp, absurdity and honesty that is extremely rare these days.  
An album that is both challenging and surprising, easily the best we've heard of the year so far because we enjoy music that challenges and succeeds. Not sure we will love the album forever, but certainly respect it greatly and I have a sense it will grow even more with repeated spins.

Support the artist here, buy the album here and peep some video below:

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