Sunday, 8 March 2015
Genre Indie Rock
Label Sub Pop
Producers Jonathan Wilson, Josh Tillman
Despite narrowly missing out on The Ephemeric's 2015 Hot List, I Love You, Honeybear is an album on which we have been keeping close tabs. After all, this is the sophomore album for Father John Misty, the alter-ego of Josh Tillman, formerly band member of the great Fleet Foxes.
From David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust to Lizzy Grant's Lana Del Rey, the concept of using a persona to separate the person from the performer is nothing new in music, but with Father John Misty it often becomes difficult to distinguish between the two. It's particularly the case with this self-described "concept" album, which strays into some intensely personal areas for Tillman.
The recurring subject and indeed the title of the album appears focused on Tillman's recent marriage, but delves deep into "all manner of regrettable behaviour". Tillman simultaneously launches into scathing critiques of insufferable people he's met, notably in The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment, and its story of a one night stand with an insufferably vapid person, while Tillman presents himself as the amoral, misguided sinner who needs to be saved by the companionship of a good woman.
But Tillman also finds time in the album's 11 tracks to dig into his most personally held beliefs. Holy Shit is an excoriating attack on the psychological manipulation behind religious institutions, while Bored in the USA casts no uncertain verdict on many of the social issues facing American today. It's here where Tillman most lands his hits wide of the mark. You never like to see musicians getting too political, it's a very fine line to walk between poignant and cliché.
Tillman steps on the wrong side of this line in the latter track, which includes lines such as "Save me President Jesus!" and a climax featuring phrases like "sub-prime loans" and "useless education" followed by a studio laugh-track. It borders on what one might hear described on the internet as a "circlejerk", eliciting complex hot button left-wing issues in the most simplistic of lights. He probably thinks he sounds really deep and meaningful, but he comes off sounding like a beatnik on open mic night.
Nevertheless, the album as a whole is frequently funny, often nasty and ultimately never boring. The songwriting is refreshingly raw, holding nothing back, laced with satire and irony. Still the most ironic thing is probably that for all the attention one might pay the lyrics and message behind the songs, they are largely incidental when the music is as excellent as this.
It's hardly surprising to see a lot of similarities between these songs and Tillman's work with Fleet Foxes. The excellent Chateau Lobby #4 in particular sounds like it could easily have been a Fleet Foxes song, it has that same acoustic brand of gorgeous, layered composition and warm vocals.
What's more intriguing is to see the extent that Tillman expands into other genres and musical styles. True Affection is one of the best tracks on the album, delving into a more electronic-folk style that sounds very reminiscent of Bon Iver mixed with the Temper Trap. Then there are songs like The Ideal Husband which is just straight up rock and roll.
If Father John Misty does share some DNA with Fleet Foxes then the comparisons are only skin deep. I Love You, Honeybear is a much bolder and edgier album, and that fire comes across in the music. These tracks range from the wild and delirious to the soulful and sweet, each are effortlessly excellent in their own way. This music would sound fantastic in its own right, but it's the combination with Tillman's caustic lyrics, the juxtaposition of venomous and tender, that really takes this album to another level.
I Love You, Honeybear is the first great album of 2015.
Must Listen :
Chateau Lobby #4
I Love You, Honeybear
The Ideal Husband