From eccentric lyrics to indie folk-rock melodies, Father John Misty – the band name for musician Josh Tillman – is like an alien. He’s a little odd and a lot fun.
Listening to his sophomore release, I Love You, Honeybear (February 2015), feels a lot like watching an episode of The Office. “I’ve brought my mother’s depression,” he sings in the album’s title song. “You’ve got your father’s scorn and a wayward aunt’s schizophrenia. But everything is fine.” Throughout, funny-yet-strange – and sometimes uncomfortable – things keep happening. Yet it works. And somehow, in the end, you realize that you’re pleased.
If you’ve never seen The Office, I can’t help you. Or you can give the album a listen.
I Love You, Honeybear, like Tillman himself, is full of personality. It’s filled with grand, orchestral accompaniments and bold, rock-like overtures. Eloquent, effortless, and, at times, vulgar lines are delivered shamelessly.
I’m pretty sure he’s mentioned in past interviews that it was a psychedelic mushroom-induced effort. It’s something you might listen to with a fixed side-eye and a confused half-smile, but let me assure you, it’s the fun kind of trip.
Honesty Never Needs a Filter
Hailing from Rockville, Md., Tillman had a humble beginning as a solo artist in Seattle, releasing a few albums under the name J. Tillman. In 2008, he joined Seattle-based Fleet Foxes as their drummer before he split ways with the band in early 2012.
It was then that he became Father John Misty and released his first album, Fear Fun, in April of that year under the new moniker.
“I have never, prior to now, really written a love song,” Tillman explains in his self-written bio for Sub Pop Records. But now with I Love You, Honeybear, he has an album comprised almost entirely of odes to his wife, Emma Elizabeth Tillman. Each song is somehow made more romantic by the bleak, disparaging commentary about the world outside of their relationship.
Tillman’s brand of romantic lyricism seems unpracticed and almost unpolished in how honest it is. He’s blunt, yet poetic. He’s a little off-color, yet sweet. At least, I think so.
Don’t let me die in a hospital.
I’ll save the big one for the last time we make love.
Insert here a sentiment re: our golden years.
– “I Went to the Store One Day”
Where Fear Fun (2012) was originally meant to be a novel that eventually manifested into a musical construct of that novel, I Love You, Honeybear sounds like we’re hearing his live narrative without a filter about the surprising appearance of love feelings for his wife.
I wanna take you in the kitchen –
Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in.
– “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)”
Maybe he never has a filter. Regardless, the lyrics on this album definitely did not go through one. I’m glad. It’s entertaining.
D.C., Take Two
I saw Father John Misty last fall for an acoustic show at the 9:30 Club. He had a gigantic, white rabbit head on a chair next to him and a single spotlight shining down from above, under which he sang with just his guitar and charismatic personality to keep him company.
“Shut up,” he told the lively audience. “Here are my feelings.” He then proceeded to sing a preview from his yet-unreleased new album.
How many people rise and think,
“Oh good, the stranger’s body’s still here.
Our arrangement hasn’t changed”?
Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways
I’ve grown more disappointing to you
as my beauty warps and fades.
– “Bored in the USA”
Personally, I’m glad he still has more feelings to share – be those ’shroom-induced or not – enough to have produced an entire second album, because we get another tour and another visit to Washington, D.C.
The Father John Misty show this Saturday (3/28) at the 9:30 Club is sold out, but if you weren’t able to get tickets or want to see him again, you can catch him opening for The Decemberists on June 4th at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD.
Go get your tickets. You really need to hear his feelings live.