Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Father John Misty

I Love You, Honeybear (2015)

Sub Pop

Josh Tillman’s traits have always struck me as divisive. Until I Love You, Honeybear, I could never quite figure out if I liked him or not. With his first album as his musical persona Father John Misty, Fear Fun, he’d reinvented his solo style for an impressive set of songs that displayed his other-worldly voice through a whimsical folk scope. His music is undeniably creative and beautiful. On the other hand, he’s always struck me as a man well aware of his good looks, musical skill, and charm. With his quirky, often self-effacing style of presentation (see his Letterman performance of “Bored in the USA” for perfect example), you get the feeling that he’s too in on the joke; he’s almost winking at the camera, saying, “Don’t worry, I know I’m great”. Plus, the Misty origin story- tripping on mushrooms and writing a novel- seems forced and trite.

But you know what? I Love You, Honeybear is fucking great. It builds off of the vibrant folk style Fear Fun established, but expands the sound in a big way. Where Fear Fun was often restrained and lingered on quieter moments, most songs on Honeybear give Misty’s commanding voice huge orchestral accompaniment. It creates an epic, psychedelic pop-rock sound that makes me nostalgic for a time in which I hadn’t been born yet. The horns, strings, and piano are more present and craft a mystical atmosphere for Tillman to explore his acerbically witty reflections on love.

As the title makes obvious, this is, for the most part, a love record. With the exceptions of “Bored in the USA” and “Holy Shit”, two message-laden songs nestled near the end of the album, most of the tracks are about love, or at least sex. Love’s a tough theme; it’s difficult to write about without dripping with saccharine and over-the-top emotion. But unlike most Top-40 writers, Misty is crafty and sharp and makes these songs self-consciously clever enough to give the potentially troublesome theme an edge. The record’s title track and opening song is an uplifting number on love in the time of the apocalypse. “True Affection” is a plea for face-to-face communication over talking through electric devices, ironically sung over the album’s only electronic beat. The record closes by addressing Tillman’s real-life new wife; “I Went to the Store One Day” supposedly ends with the first words he ever said to her.

You can believe the hype. Misty’s new album is everywhere, but with good reason. For a break from the punk universe, journey into the cosmos of love with Honeybear. If you don’t appreciate the folksy mysticism, you can at least appreciate the many lyrical gems: ‘I hate that soulful affectation white girls put on/ Why don’t you move to the Delta?’