Father John Misty Is Exceptional On ‘I Love You, Honeybear’
Every harmonic progression, orchestration, and musical push feel as if Father John Misty sought nothing short of perfection on I Love You, Honeybear.
Lush, bold, and brutally honest, Father John Misty’s sophomore album I Love You, Honeybear is a contemporary masterpiece. Unlike anything else released in 2015, Father John Misty (Josh Tillman) put his foot into I Love You, Honeybear. Tillman pays close attention to each and every detail. Every harmonic progression, orchestration, and musical push feel as if Tillman sought nothing short of perfection. I Love You, Honeybear is something truly to behold.
“I Love You, Honeybear” opens with lush instrumentation and a clever harmonic progression. Father John Misty details his love with wife Emma as everlasting and uncompromising. Tillman’s brutal honesty rears its head here, establishing the tenor of the album as a whole.
“Honeybear, Honeybear, Honeybear / F*ck the world, damn straight malaise / it may be just us who feel this way.”
Beyond the aforementioned lyric, Father John Misty gets edgier, blasphemously singing:
“You’re bent over the altar and the neighbors are complaining / that the misanthropes next door are probably conceiving a Damien / Don’t they see the darkness rising? Good luck fingering oblivion.”
People are certain Tillman and his wife are deadly and devilish, but he could care less. He doesn’t consider himself to be demonic but speaks from the perspective of others.
On “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins),” Tillman continues to show his incredible aptitude for clever lyricism. The track seems to be about making love to his new wife for the first time. Examine the lyrics closer and there are multiple sub-plots and narratives. Ultimately about him and his wife, the poetic singer/songwriter crafts a truly intricate, breathtaking portrait.
“True Affection” opens with dizzying production work – a stark contrast to the opening songs. Electronically based, Tillman is going for a more inauthentic, impersonal feel. The lyrics suggest establishing a relationship using technology, sans the personal contact necessary to build a genuine connection. The production serves as a tone poem of sorts, supporting the absurdity.
“I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man / and I mean like a goddamn marching band…and the malaprops make me wanna f*cking scream.”
Geez, Louise! On “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt,” Tillman delivers nothing short of a hilarious tale of what has to be a failed romantic encounter, apparent by the sarcasm of the aforementioned, opening lyrics. Read further into Father John Misty’s tale:
“She blames her excess on my influence / but gladly hoovers all my drugs / I found her naked with her best friend in the tub / and we sang ‘Silent Night’ in three parts which was fun…”
Tillman makes it obvious that long term isn’t part of this equation. At best, the girl has to be a groupie, right?
“When You’re Smiling and Astride” is among the set’s most soulful cuts, enough so to make any soul veteran proud. The background vocals, the strings, and the organ mixed in the background – simply beautiful and magnificent. It is a complete 360º from “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.” as Tillman has found ‘the real thing’:
“When you’re smiling and astride me I can hardly believe I found you / and I’m terrified by that.”
Maybe the oddest reference is when Tillman claims, “I’ve got nothing to hide from you / kissing my brother in my dreams or finding God knows what in my jeans.” But, that is honesty, and “When You’re Smiling and Astride” is among the best of I Love You, Honeybear.
“Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” continues the ‘pursuit of perfection’ established by I Love You, Honeybear where every note and nuance feels perfectly in placed. Tillman’s powerful, earthy voice shines here, rising above the country/folk-tinged production work. The sound definitely emulates that of the bar of which the song is set in. The best lines come at the end as Tillman sings:
“Why the long face, jerk-off? / Your chance has been taken – good one / you may think like an animal, but if you try that cat-and-mouse shit you’ll get bitten / keep moving.”
Summing things up, a bar is a perfect place for good things to get messed up.
“I wanna find somebody / but not like this / I’m a decent person / just a little aimless,” Father John Misty sings on the dramatic “Strange Encounter,” which opens alarmingly.
“You’ll only ever be the girl who just almost died in my house.”
Continuing on the wrong pathway to love like “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt” or “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” “Strange Encounter” is alluring despite its irresponsible situation. The drama of that situation is accentuated beautiful by thoughtfully tailored music, yet another draw that makes
By the electrifying close of “The Ideal Husband,” Tillman asserts:
“I’m tired of running / tired of running / tired of running!’ Let’s put a baby in the oven! / Wouldn’t I make the ideal husband?”
The answer to Tillman’s question is a resounding NO considering everything Father John Misty has done wrong throughout his life. That said, the tale of which he’s crafted also speaks to the imperfections of everyone, particularly as they’ve found love and went on to change their lives and make a commitment to someone else.
“Bored in the USA” is seemingly absurd from the start:
“How many people rise and say, ‘My brain’s so awfully glad to be here for yet another mindless day’.”
Ultimately, Father John Misty seems to be painting a portrait that many feel about their lives as they get older. Things change from being youthful and vivacious to being nothing short of a drag. This “total bummer” is filled with bills, “beauty warps and fades,” and keeping “prescriptions filled.” That ultimately includes the problems suffered in the USA with joblessness, economic issues. Most notably, “Bored in the USA” is a play on Bruce Springsteen’s more enthusiastic-sounding classic, “Born In the USA.” Even so, even Springsteen’s version is critical of certain facets of life in the U.S.A. and “Bored In The U.S.A.” just adds fuel to the fire.
“Holy Shit” is an attention-getter, thanks to using shit in its title. Holy shit itself is a popular exclamatory phrase. Despite its brutal honesty, Tillman never utters the titular line, with the song embodying the phrase. Lyrical examples of this include:
“Ancient holy wars / dead religious / Holocausts / New regimes, old ideas,”
as well as,
“Eunuch sluts / consumer slaves / a rose by any other name / Carbon footprint / Incest dreams / F*ck the mother in the green…”
It’s heady, but nothing short of astoundingly brilliant.
Following the grandiosity of “Holy Shit,” “I Went to the Store One Day” is much calmer – softer and more ‘reverent’ in sound. The lyrics retain their honesty and poetry, accompanied chilling, crescendoing strings and rhythmic guitar – not to mention the mandolin. It ends up being a superb way to close one of the year’s best albums, hands down.
How good is I Love You, Honeybear? It’s clever, honest, and among the most creative contemporary albums. By all means, Father John Misty has scored his home run.
Favorites: “I Love You, Honeybear,” “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins),” “When You’re Smiling And Astride,” “Bored in The USA,” & “Holy Shit”
Father John Misty • I Love You, Honeybear • Subpop • US Release: 2.10.15