album review

​Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

Released February 10, 2015
Chad W. Lutz
​Joshua Tillman has gone through some significant identity issues in recent years. He's been the drummer for the Indie band Fleet Foxes, a solo artist producing records under his birth name, scored a movie for his wife, and ever since the 2012 release of Fear Fun has been making music as the illustrious, and often blustery, Father John Misty. Anyone who has gone through major changes in life knows it isn't always so easy to cope. Especially when it's your identity in question. That's where Tillman's alter ego comes in, and what we find in this new space is a beautiful rage able to haunt and inspire all at once.

Combining elements of trip hop, Americana blues, Doo-wop, and gospel rock, Tillman as Father John Misty in I Love You, Honeybear gives us the ironic anger album we've all been waiting for. At times, like on the slow, grooving love song "When You're Smiling and Astride Me" you'll want to sit back, relax, groan, stretch it out (stretch it waaaay out) and then settle into a favorite beanbag with your Bubby. Sure, the lyrics are raw, but so are the melodies, and Tillman's vocals reek with honesty. "You see me as I am, it's true/Aimless fake drifter, and the horny man-child models for to boot/That's how you live free/Truly see and be seen."

Most of I Love You, Honeybear adopts the same tongue-in-cheek, satirical, lyrical tone, with the lyrics not only mocking the man singing them and the social constructs that are suffocating him, but the music itself. Soft, pleasant, cowboy strolling base lines and waft, whispering acoustic guitar backdrop Father John Misty boldly proclaiming, "Now my genius can't drink in silence/She's gotta a listen to your tired-ass lines," and later begins the final refrain of "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddam Thirsty Crow" with "Why the long face, Jerkoff? Your chance has been taken/Good one."

The most striking song comes nearly two-thirds of the way through the eleven-track album. It's a sorrowful lament on the state of the American Dream, and Father John Misty isn't saving anything in his sermon. "Bored in the U.S.A." is tragic, heartfelt, and a passionate ode to finding identity in an ever-changing landscape. "Is this the part where I get all I ever wanted?" he croons, and then as if thinking it over, admits, "Who said that?" and brings it home to nearly every college student who's had to submit a loan payment, "Can I get my money back?" He hits the chord right on the head. "They gave me a useless education." Backing laugh track comes on. "A subprime loan." More laughter. "A craftsman home. Keep my prescriptions filled. Now I can't get off, but I can kind of deal." By the time he gets to the refrain, you're right there with him, wallowing in broken promises and windswept dreams. It evokes a murderous sadness that Father John follows up with a song called "Holy Shit". Well played, sir.

Even if you don’t listen to the lyrics, you're going to enjoy this album. There is enough going on stylistically that no matter who you are this album will both surprise and give you exactly what you're looking for. The instrumentation isn't anything crazy or groundbreaking, but I Love You, Honeybear hits the right notes in the right places, which is what music is really all about anyway. And if you do happen to have an ear for the melancholy, this album will probably become your favorite album of the year, and perhaps even more.