We all know Josh Tillman for his solo work, a sound that was decorated in merits of strictness and calm with an overabundance of thorny power. We can best appreciate his efforts in Fleet Foxes from 2008-2011 where Year in the Kingdom was released to major criticism from Paul Thompson due to its “lone lonesome, somber tone, one Tillman– a funny, amicable dude, if you’ve ever heard him clowning on himself at a Fleet Foxes gig– would do well to shake on occasion.”
The response to the criticism and the accompanying bout of depression in Seattle, powered Tillman to pack up his van with shrooms and wanderlust, eventually finding shelter in Laurel Canyon on the western coastline. Conceivably his newly acquired pseudonym, Father John Misty and the bolster of his four-year stint in Fleet Foxes, resulted in a more adventurous catalogue in the form of 2012’s Fear Fun.
It was a different time for the folk revivalist, a period of introspection and perhaps of self-discovery that I don’t think will ever show up again on any FJM albums, at least not on his second full-length release, I Love You, Honeybear. (Anyone else think the artwork came straight out of an Eric Carle children’s book?). While the unmistakably clashing album titles display a changing FJM, Honeybear continues to maintain his characteristic periods of dark reflection. However, now novel themes of devotion, romance, and love seem to run throughout the sophomore release. The album seems true, honest and at times is unapologetically broken up by bouts of social commentary as with the laugh-track infused “Bored in the USA”. The single truly shines as it profits from a new poignant twist on the influential, so-called American classic.
The endearing “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” bleeds romantic love, most probably written about this new found love; a personal but very witty track, shining light on FJM’s string section. The title track, however, is quite deceiving as the charming “I Love You, Honeybear” lures listeners in, but isn’t as passionate as one would think. Tillman’s classic falsetto takes over “True Affection” and provide the perfect backdrop for “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”.
It’s not hard to realize that bouncing back from the solemnness and monotone humour of Fear Fun would be one hell of a feat, and make for one astounding album. That’s exactly what Honeybear is. It is well established that FJM purports himself as one crafty musician able to (unintentionally) explore the whole range of human emotion with his two first records.
Honeybear, undoubtedly tells the worthy tale of a man who is back and comfortable with his life, and who has grown stronger and more powerful than ever. A refreshing adjustment and another incredible masterpiece begging to be heard.
Review by Sean Carlin | @seancarlin89