Josh Tillman returns this year with his second record under the Father John Misty moniker. After dropping a few so-so folk releases and, for unknown reasons, going on tour with folk dogmatists Fleet Foxes as a drummer for a bit (presumably gently tapping a tambourine somewhere behind Robin Pecknold’s overwrought harmonies at certain points during the show), he started anew in 2012 with a beautiful album of songs accrued during heady days of shrooming in a van somewhere in California (which, to be honest, is what anyone forced to drum for Fleet Foxes would do once the chains had been lifted ). I Love You, Honeybear continues many of the themes found on that excellent debut but feels closer to the man behind the moniker.
While Fear Fun seemed to tell the story of some kind of gifted wildman rummaging through Laurel Canyon, binging on acid and Harry Nilsson records, this album is clearly dealing with other kinds of adventure – true love, real relationships and settling down. “Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades” Tillman sings at one point on first single ‘Bored in the U.S.A’.
It’s not all world-weary heaviness though; ‘The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.’ is a hummable and funny middle-of-the-record anecdote with a last line that at least made this reviewer laugh out loud on first listen. It describes the sort of haphazard, drugged-out occasion that the Father John Misty on Fear Fun might have found inspiring, but the protagonist of this new record is not as easily impressed.
The music is for the most part the same fine mixture of 60’s pop, smartass indie-folk and cleverly arranged Laurel Canyon vibes that constituted the first record. Many of these songs are draped in beautiful orchestral backcloths with strings, horns and glockenspiels that would undoubtedly make for an interesting listen on their own but Tillman never lets the set dressing distract from the quality of the material.
Track number three, ‘True Affection’, breaks from the regular fare with drum-machines and spluttering synths that blend well with Tillman’s solemn harmonies. While quite different from the rest it’s a brilliant slice of pop that will undoubtedly persuade people who would otherwise have run the other way on reading antiquated references like “Harry Nilsson”, “Glockenspiel” or for that matter, “Fleet Foxes” to have a listen.
Towards the end, the verbose sarcasm of the Father John Misty character wears a little bit thin in places but I Love You, Honeybear is an excellent second album by a fascinating artist we will definitely hear from again.