In a time when countless modern day artists rely on glitzy production values and twitter references, every so often one comes along that is truly genuine. Father John Misty – the alter-ego of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman – is one such artist, engaging with his audience, not solely through catchy melodies and affable lyrics, but by sheer force of personality and good, old fashioned story telling. I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman’s second as his musical guise, paints a wonderfully palpable portrait of love, sex and discovery in contemporary America, while crucially taking into account all the contradictions that go hand in hand with these subjects.
Musically the album is perfectly crafted and supremely arranged, veering seamlessly between folk ballad, country western and traditional Americana, but its lyrical content and compelling delivery are its real tour-de-force. Recorded in what you could call a settled period in his life – happily married and well established as a musical entity – Tillman uses his stability to his advantage, philosophising about a range of subjects and essentially confronting the very issues that make us human.
Jovial songs addressing virginity (‘Chateau #4’), the quirky challenges of coupledom (‘When You’re Smiling’ and ‘Astride Me’), an encounter with an undesirable female (‘The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Department’), and even the gratuitous consumption of modern technology (‘True Affection’), portray Father John Misty as something of a cynical, if entirely humourous, social commentator, inflicted by the same shortcomings and peculiarities as the rest of us. His sarcastic, self- deprecating delivery on tracks like ‘Nothing Good Ever Happens on the Goddamn Thirsty Crow’ and ‘The Ideal Husband ‘ emphasise his penchant for a good, humourous tale, while his jocular reminiscence on his superbly satirical testament to life in modern America ‘Bored in the USA’, and his evocative portrayal of desire and yearning on ‘Strange Encounter’, certify his talents as both a lyricist and a narrator.
As anecdotally accomplished as the record is however, its real triumph lies in the sheer range of emotions it conveys. Beyond the whimsy and facetiousness there remains an confessional undertone, ultimately representing a spiritual and emotional journey for it’s protagonist. Tillman’s allusions on closing track ‘I Went to the Store One Day’ are indicative of Father John Misty’s long-awaited transformation from skeptical, alienated hedonist to humble, gratified soul, a man appreciative of a loving marriage and content existence and looking forward to the next chapter. An insightful, reflective and altogether very human record from a truly authentic artist.