Review: Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

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Beautifully intimate

I Love You Honeybear is an unapologetic display of intimacy, a no holds barred insight into Josh Tillman’s private life. From start to finish, he wears his heart on his sleeves and his tongue in his cheek as he candidly describes his life and love.

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Due to streaming services, saturation of the online market, and album leaks, artists are finding it harder to earn money for their music and are having to resort to new tactics in order to create an impact. This is a fact Father John Misty (AKA Josh Tillman) knows all too well, and has expertly subverted in the build up to the release of his second album under the FJM moniker, I Love You, Honeybear.

From serenading “industry execs” at Spotify’s New York office using a handheld karaoke machine to devising an innovative new “music streaming” service SAP, “a new signal-to-audio process by which popular albums are “sapped” of their performances, original vocal, atmosphere and other distracting affectations”. The result sounds somewhat like the soundtrack to 3DS game Animal Crossing, but more importantly has marketed ILYH perfectly. Tillman has subtly snuck his way back onto the indie radar at little cost, and without making listeners feel like customers.

The record itself is an unapologetic display of intimacy, from the opening lines of the title track “mascara, blood, ash and cum On the Rorschach sheets where we make love” it’s a no holds barred insight into Tillman’s private life. From start to finish, Father John Misty wears his heart on his sleeves and his tongue in his cheek as he candidly describes his life and love.

Much more ambitious than his previous album under the Father John Misty moniker, 2012’s Fear Fun, every song on ILYH has its own identity. Second single ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)’ is enriched with a delicate strings section, and employs a mariachi band without sounding contrived. However, there is quite a contrast between it and next song ‘True Affection’. A synth-led song revolving around simple harmonies, it shares more in common with Merriweather Post Pavilion-era Animal Collective than the rest of the album.

ILYH could easily be confused by a half-listener, the lush chamber pop is occasionally at odds with the lyrical content of the album. On ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow’ Tillman so smoothly threatens the “jerk off” hitting on his wife with “tired-ass lines”, that he could be confused for Michael Bublé if not for his potty mouth. This is lounge music at its most down to Earth, as Tillman displays his knack for seeing the everyday in such a poetic nature to rival that of Sun Kil Moon’s Benji. Unlike Benji, ILYH focusses more on sentimentality than nostalgia, and is more versatile in its songwriting.

The album climaxes with the one-two of single ‘Bored in the USA’ and penultimate track ‘Holy Shit’. ‘Bored in the USA’ highlights the failings of the American Dream in a nod to Bruce Springsteen, although it’s depiction of middle America is less likely to be misunderstood for patriotism than the original, as Tillman calls for help from “White…President Jesus” and canned studio laughter accompanies his commentary on the education system and economy. ‘Holy Shit’ was penned on Tillman’s wedding day, portraying the overwhelming magnitude of the event and his love for his wife.

Sadly, it threatens to overshadow the record’s closing track, ‘I Went to the Store One Day’. The song is beautifully poignant, a letter of devotion to his wife that tells the story from the day he met his wife Emma, to falling in love, and extending into the future as he hopes to grow old with his family.

I Love You Honeybear is available now on Bella Union Records.

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Former youngest person in the world. Music listener, word user, soon to be master of physics.

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