If you did not know any better, you might be assuming this is a review of an ordained priest, singing glorious hymns of worship, faith, and vocalizing stories of the past. If you know nothing about Father John Misty, otherwise known as Joshua Tillman, you are probably not far off in your assumptions. Since the hiatus of folk giants Fleet Foxes, Tillman has been left in the haze of his own clever psychedelia. Writing curious melodies about his “weird-ass experiences,” and turning his storytelling around to not only fit his own identity, but being able to relate these journeys with all of us.
“I Love You, Honeybear” is the second release by Misty since his departure from Fleet Foxes, it feels much more experienced compared to his previous works. Misty considers this record to be his “concept album” and like a true fairytale it takes a few listens to figure out what exactly that concept is. Each track of this album feels almost separate of each other. It feels like a series of indie films, featuring filtered visions of dark humor.
This album is deadly cynical. So cynical it makes you want to vomit. It’s also so touching, which makes it hard to turn away. Honeybear is completely sincere, without taking itself too seriously. It is the backdrop of a folk singer in a field full of grass, below a sky full of cartoonish sketches.
The jokes and comedic elements are alive and well on this album, and several of them are not even recognized as funny. Like on the track “Chateau Lobby.” His songs tend to be chatty, and this is the point. His stories are never lengthy though, giving you little time to think about how the emotions of the lyrics match the melody. If you like stand-up comedy, and folk music, this might just be what you’re looking for.
Like many stand-up comedians Tillman’s music is hilarious, but comes from a place of self-pity and despair. The album starts off with a familiar sound, like the beginning of an end. “I Love You Honeybear,” the opening track, exclaims these thoughts, “My love, you’re the one I want to watch the ship go down with.” Similar instances of bad social interactions, and awkward encounters ensue like in “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment,” where Josh is having trouble with talking to a girl, and understanding her manners of endearment. He exclaims, “Someone’s been told too many times, they’re beyond their years.”
But to me, the most enduring of all the tracks is “Bored in The USA.” When Tillman performed the song on Letterman later last year, the audience was torn between laughing at each line, or sitting back and feeling low about themselves. This should give you an idea of what is in store with this album.
This record is an absolute roller coaster of mixed emotion, and might be the most manic folk album you’ll ever here. If you find yourself getting sidetracked with the weight of your own depression, or counting the pennies you have left in your wallet at the end of your listen. That is okay. Just try not to take things too seriously.