Album Review: Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
“…To ignore part of your life and not speak on it because it might intimidate somebody is not to be very mature.”
Listening to ‘I Love You, Honeybear’, the quote by the late American poet Gil Scott-Heron perfectly encapsulates the personal exorcism that is on display throughout the 11 gut-wrenching songs that form the beautifully exuberant second album by Father John Misty.
Misty – the bastardized bohemian alter-ego of American singer-songwriter Josh Tillman – carved his way into the musical consciousness with the interesting, but flawed, début ‘Fear Fun’ a couple of years back, playing the role of a drug-addled, self-glancing minstrel. On ‘Honeybear’ the nihilistic tendencies of Tillman’s alias are still very much present, although in a new, discombobulated way. His sophomore effort is billed as “a concept album about Josh Tillman” which means that Misty is done playing amateur theatre, and has moved on to the artistic preservation of the Broadway stage.
‘Honeybear’ is a case study in the art of impression management. Inspired by the redemptive experience of finding true love, Tillman successfully creates a caustic, lyrically arresting universe always on the brink of sour irony and raw honesty. On ‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’ he sings: “I can hardly believe I’ve found you, and I’m terrified by that,” stating minutes before that: “… I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man / I mean like a goddamn marching band.” It is between these moments of absolute bombast and plaintive jibes that Tillman exceeds as an artist, proving to be a relevant interpreter of the contrasting ideals of great pop songwriting.
Musically, ‘Honeybear’ is inspired by the contemplative sounds of the 70s, with its dense soul-searching arrangements recalling Phil Spector circa George Harrisons’ ‘All Things Must Pass’, as well as the melodic magnitude of Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’.
‘Holy Shit’, a massive standout about the thoughts of getting married in the face of societal change, exudes on a high-flown irreverence, while ‘Bored in the USA’ is a peculiar sociopolitical ballad about the apathy of middle-class America – and a satirical display of personal mundanity.
The astounding boldness of Tillman’s lyrics paired with a sensible orchestration, makes ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ a powerful artistic statement in the face of modern pop-culture. Instead of ignoring his own egoistical fatality, Tillman has succeeded in creating a mature and intimidating exorcism of the 21st Century schizoid mindset.
Father John Misty‘s sophomore album “I Love You, Honeybear” was released on 9th February in the UK/Europe on Bella Union and 10th Feb in the rest of the world via Sub Pop.