Although I claim to be a music encyclopedia, I do have a pattern of not fully appreciating an album until a year or two after it is released. This is true for the album “Fear Fun” by indie folk singer-songwriter Father John Misty.
I remember constantly hearing one of the album’s singles, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” on The Current towards the end of my senior year of high school, and I enjoyed the fuzzed out lo-fi slow jam it had, and who could deny Josh Tillman’s, aka Father John Misty’s, silky vocals?
It took me up until spring of 2014 to have fully delved into and appreciate every track on the album. I think “Fear Fun” is a cohesive moving album with charm, humor and a captivating range of Laurel Canyon-esque folk rock. “Fear Fun” was a debut success for Misty, although he had already released seven albums under the name J. Tillman and lest we ever forget that he happened to play drums for indie rock band Fleet Foxes for a couple years. How was Misty going to compete with himself?
The first glimpse I had at Father John Misty’s new album “I Love You, Honeybear” was his David Letterman performance in November 2014. Perfectly timed with the secondary election that was going on, his performance of his new song “Bored in the USA,” was amusing, in melodramatic balladeering of first-world problems. Though Misty has always made cynical observations on the world, never was it as bold or abrasive as this performance. It was also a very minimalistic, John Denver-like folk performance, which made me wonder if his album was going be a continuation of this cynical sad-sack attitude. The answer is partly true.
As many times as I have listened to the album now, I’m still not sure if I like “I Love You, Honeybear” as much as “Fear Fun.”
Maybe I’m just prone to declaring sophomore slumps, as I easily did with british band Alt-J’s sophomore album they released last fall. For the record, I still think Alt-J’s sophomore album is a stinking dump of a sophomore slump.
Misty’s latest album doesn’t have a clear direction, or sound to me. Apparently Tillman has called this album a concept album, but I think it is a misguided one. Sure, it has it’s charming moments, like the mariachi horns in “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins), and Misty shows he can pull off any genre, like the swirly electronic sounds of ‘True Affection.'” My problem is I don’t see anything remarkable.
“Fear Fun” was an album about a man doing whatever he wants. “I Love You, Honeybear” is about a man in love with one particular lady. In September 2013 Tillman married photographer Emma Garr, which provided a clear theme for this album. Tillman glorifies his wife throughout the album whether he’s singing about how beautiful she is, or how great in bed she is. He sings about his insecurities of being with her, evident in the songs “True Affection,” “Ideal Husband,” and the jealousy of dealing with other potential male suitors in the song “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow.”
In a simple sweet end to the album Tillman chronicles him and his wife’s past, present and future, ending with their meet-cue at a country store.
Upon my first listen of this album, I thought it was a sleeper. There were no stand out tracks, but maybe one or two. But now I realize that’s almost how I felt initially about his previous album. I might be turned off by the too specific and personal lyrics from this album. Maybe I liked the absurdity and vague storytelling of “Fear Fun” more, and I think monogamy kills music.
I’ll give the album a couple of years before I put my permanent judgment on it though.
Final Verdict: 6/10