Posted on February 10th, 2015 (12:00 pm) by Aaron Tremper

Joshua Tillman’s latest project, Father John Misty, formed after leaving the critically acclaimed success of Fleet Foxes’ 2011 album, Helplessness Blues. In a press release for Father John Misty’s debut, Fear Fun, Tillman described how an “immobilizing period of depression” and a mushroom-fueled, novel-drafting road-trip inspired months of songwriting sessions in the renowned Laurel Canyon. The result would be the neo-psychedelic start of Father John Misty, Tillman’s latest musical reincarnation in a 14-year career that started with Tillman’s band, Saxon Shore, back in 2001.

Father John Misty’s sophomore effort, I Love You, Honeybear, merges Tillman’s experience as Fleet Foxes’ percussionist and backup singer with uncensored, blunt lyricism. Witty, emotive, and brutally honest, Tillman triumphs with an impressive voice and a calculated record that demonstrates an ear for mixing ironic combinations of subject matter and music.

The album opens with the nihilist title track, a misleading dedication to apocalyptic love that showcases Honeybear’s slick production and pointed lines. The cut introduces a motif of lewd (and at times, uncomfortable) sexuality that only a self-proclaimed failed Christian can boast. Meanwhile, the mariachi folk of “Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins)” explores virginal pinings. The cluttered “The Night John Tillman Came To our Apartment” features the strangest reaction to a cheating partner ever recorded: “I found her naked with her best friend in the tub / We sang ‘Silent Night’ in three parts which was fun.” After proclaiming a hatred for the “soulful affectation white girls put on,” Tillman transitions into his own soulful and lush, “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me.”

However, for all his upbraiding of women, Tillman has his own straight-guy affectations that waver between cheeky frankness and an off-putting insensitivity (See the melancholy bar croon, “Nothing Good Ever Happens at The Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” in which a dense Tillman finds it “hard to believe a good hearted woman can have a body that can make your Daddy cry.”). The album has few flaws, but Tillman’s attitude can, at times, be hard to swallow.

After the Brian Wilson influenced “Strange Encounters,” the album’s last third transitions into social commentary that makes for the best material on the LP. The confessional, “The Ideal Husband,” exhibits a raw Tillman listing his most vulnerable shortcomings. In Honeybear’s magnum opus, “Bored In The U.S.A.,” Tillman finds himself trapped within the lull of an aimless, postmodern America (“By this afternoon, I’ll live in debt / By tomorrow I’ll be replaced by children,”). The pessimistic, acoustic ballad, “Holy Shit,” maintains Tillman’s biting critique, cleverly insisting that “love is just an institution based on human frailty. . . just an economy based on resource scarcity” before closing out the album with the melancholy fingerpicking of “I Went To the Store One Day.”

Much of the insightful observations on consumerism and capitalism presented on the album have bled into the album’s promotion as well. On the project’s official website, Tillman presents an instrumental version of I Love You, Honeybear in order to allow prospective listeners to preview the album “without sacrificing [his] livelihood or original recordings.” Collaborating with “psychoacoustics researcher and software developer,” Casey Wescott, Tillman created the SAP music player in an attempt to remind his audience about the disintegrating music business while still catering to their particular habits of music consumption.

On I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman flaunts a brave and raw sound, reaching for subject matters and genres that defy anything appropriate for a Fleet Foxes album. While Tillman’s provocative lyrics seem a little too forward on particular cuts, the album itself is a successful realization of Tillman’s shroom-dropping, novel-scheming potential.


  1. I Love You, Honeybear
  2. Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins
  3. True Affection
  4. The Night John Tillman Came To our Apartment
  5. When You’re Smiling and Astride Me
  6. Nothing Good Ever Happens at The Goddamn Thirsty Crow
  7. Strange Encounter
  8. The Ideal Husband
  9. Bored In The USA
  10. Holy Shit
  11. I Went To the Store One Day
Father John Misty — I Love You, Honeybear Review
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