“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” –Lao Tzu
I Love You, Honeybear is the latest album out by indie rock outfit Father John Misty, also known by his full name, Josh Tillman. Tillman was also a member of bands Fleet Foxes and Saxon Shore, bands known for their ability to bend and distort the very fabric of music to their liking. Tillman’s arguably greatest achievement was creating Helplessness Blues with Fleet Foxes. Greatest achievement… until now.
I Love You, Honeybear just connects with you instantly. Enter the album’s debut and titular track, “I Love You, Honeybear.” The old time piano, the rolling drums, the pessimistic lyricism, everything about this album so far seems like there’s trouble in paradise in the best way possible. The way the song moves along reminds me of most acoustic Beatles songs from the White Album, it has that same apathetic feel to it, kind of like a lazy daydream. Very calming, this album is.
On the second track of this album, “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)”, FJM channels its inner Hall and Oates. I’m sure Daryl and John would be pretty happy to hear this effort by FJM; the vocals sound straight out of the 80’s. Full of color and flexibility, FJM’s vocals push a chair in front of you and tell you to sit right down. The following song, “True Affection,” is indie rock at its purest. A lot of indie rock themes have love, loss and learning from past mistakes somewhere in the song, and this song has it all. A man is deeply yearning to just have a simple conversation with someone who he loves very much face-to-face and not over a screen. Seems pretty arbitrary, but I can relate to it. I hate how people would rather talk on the phone than face-to-face, so I can feel his frustration with modern society. And that’s exactly what I Love You, Honeybear does so well: it relates to you. It finds something that you had a hard time with growing up, and forces you to go through that heartbreak again so you can learn from it.
“The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” features the sort of same frustration “Chateau Lobby #4” did. Through this album, I realize that Josh Tillman is someone who’s just fed up with most of the world. Too many things frustrate him, too many things don’t make sense, and he took it by the horns and made it a delightful experience, however heartbreaking it may be. “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” starts off with a lovely 50’s-like instrumentation leading into a sad story of what could have been. The line “And now every insufferable convo, features her patiently explaining the cosmos, of which she’s in the middle” really speaks levels, because we all know someone that just thinks they’re the most important person in the universe, and it’s nice to hear that someone else shares that pain too.
The next three tracks are my favorite on the album. “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” is plain nice to listen to. Very calming, and the choir only makes it better with their heavenly harmonies. The guitar work is top notch on this song. Straight out of the Allman Brothers, it sounds. “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” is my favorite track off the album. It’s a masterpiece, through and through. The song moves along in such a distinct and calm manner, it’s hard to ignore its brilliance. That sort of chamber pop feel with indie rock attitude is exactly what this album needed, and it got it. You know when you hear a song and it just instantly becomes memorable and stuck in your head? This is that song. This song implores you to explore the farthest reaches of your memory and stay there. Tillman, however, did not like this track. Saying “I hear a very insecure, petulant imp who is objectifying the woman he claims to love, thinking of her like an object that is his.” This track has a very Disney like feel. It makes me feel like I’m watching Toy Story for the first time, and it doesn’t go away when I listen to it over and over again. Great song. The next track is under some investigation, because some believe it was written by Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame. Well, not really, but holy shit does “Strange Encounter” sound like it. Even the chord progression sounds like it’s off of OK Computer. Tillman did a really good job with his overall sound on this album. In “Strange Encounter”, his versatility as a musician is most prominent. Having been blown away from every song on this album so far, “Strange Encounter” is no exception. One thing that’s worth mentioning is that the choruses to these songs never really deviate far from the verses from the song, keeping one smooth motion throughout, almost like post-rock. “Strange Encounter” is great.
Sadly, the remaining tracks on the album aren’t as great, and they sort of lost the magic. “The Ideal Husband” is a great example of this. While I love the chorus to this track, the whole song just feels tired and old. The instrumentation doesn’t do anything for me, the percussion is simply boring, and the songwriting just feels poor, with little to no effort put in. “Bored in the USA” is appropriately titled, because it’s what I was during this song. I live in the USA, and man was I bored listening to this. By now, Tillman’s voice has started to wear on me, doing nothing to really excite or innovate, and heavily relying on his lyricism to entertain. The instrumentation is, once again, dull. I don’t feel anything from it; it doesn’t really go anywhere. Which is okay, but when over half of your album is stagnant and you talk about things that frustrate you, it starts to get annoying after a while. The story is the exact same for “Holy Shit” and “I Went to the Store One Day”, which emphasizes tired vocals and melodramatic phrases.
Through these faults however, Father John Misty manages to create a great album. If you’re a big fan of indie rock and psychedelic folk, give this album a try.
I Love You, Honeybear is out now on Sub Pop Records.