Father John Misty, A.K.A John Tillman, the ex-drummer of the much revered Fleet Foxes has a certain knack for songwriting that only comes with time. This is technically the man’s 10th solo album but only the second to be under the alias Father John Misty after his brilliant ‘Fear Fun’ which was released in 2012. An album that showed FJM as a man who wanted to make acoustic folk music, but was very aware that the whole idea of making that had itself become a cliché, so he crafted songs that were themselves mocking the whole idea of the sentimental folk song while still bringing out FMJ’s own inner thoughts.
In the time since ‘Fear Fun’ Tillman has fallen in love and gotten married so he’s now set himself the challenge of making a compelling album about marriage, without making it sound like the other thousands of records that are filled with horrible cliché lyrics about marriage. One could easily compare FJM’s song-writing approach on what will be his breakout album to that of John Grant’s breakout album ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ – they’re both painfully self-aware and deliver all of their lyrics so sincerely but with a bluntness that makes every line so entertainingly funny. FJM sings everything from a personal perspective but has the knack of making problems that everyday people feel and think, sound so pathetic and funny when they’re written in such a plain way.
‘I Love You, Honeybear’ is an album that basically details the ups and downs, the frustrations and joys of being in love and being married without the sonnets and fanciness, but with pure honesty and open-heartedness. Take the song, ‘The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.’ which is either an ode to an ex or it’s a laundry list of things that annoys him about his wife which obviously happens when you spend so much time with someone with lyrics like ‘She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes/And the malaprops make me want to fucking scream/I wonder if she even knows what that word means/Well, it’s literally not that’ and a hilarious line later on in the song about how he gladly obliged to choking her in sex.
Tillman uses sexual imagery in a lot of different ways in order to represent different aspects of the relationship on here like on the title track where he sings, ‘You’re bent over the altar/And the neighbours are complaining/That the misanthropes next door/Are conceiving a Damien’ obviously showing off that honeymoon feeling when you’re at it like rabbits without a care in the world. Elsewhere he uses the imagery you’d usually associate with sex to show how unbelievably scared he is to be falling in love in the song ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For 2 Virgins)’ where he uses words like ‘baby, be gentle/ I’ve never done this before’ to sound like a vulnerable virgin.
A lot of the time the humour actually comes from the own expense of Tillman, who often mocks himself and his own self loathing. Time and time again he admits that he’s a shit who likes to get high and drunk, and we he does get like that he becomes an asshole who gets possessive over his wife especially when someone tries to chat her up like in the song ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow’. He also says that he’s just a ‘horny man-child momma’s boy’ on the song, ‘When You’re Smiling And Astride Me’ which is easily the most sentimental song on the record and perhaps has a theme that runs throughout the entire album underneath all of the jokes and self mockery – the fact that they love each other for who they are regardless of their flaws. Which in itself sounds like a cliché but the way that it’s all been delivered makes it feel like a breath of fresh air for singer-songwriters.
It’s evident why Tillman left Fleet Foxes, it’s hard to imagine him ever even being in Fleet Foxes once you listen to this album the whole way through. Sonically lush and fantastically organised though it may be, that’s where the similarities end. Father John Misty succeeded in creating a fantastic singer-songwriter album about love and marriage – it’s brutally honest, very sentimental at time yet it could easily be played as a comedy album from start to finish.
Best Tracks: I Love You, Honeybear, Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow, Bored In The USA