February: I Love You, Honeybear – FATHER JOHN MISTY

I came across FJM surprisingly recently – I say, surprisingly, because as soon as I heard his 2012 album Fear Fun, I wondered how I could have missed something that so was squarely up my street. He has all the credentials – former drummer for Fleet Foxes, crazy religious upbringing, impressive beard and sharp suit, and *those* incredible lyrics, a mixture of cutting, self-loathing and self-loving, or just plain plaintive.

I LOVE YOU, HONEYBEAR doesn’t mess with the formula, but if anything it’s an even more impressive piece of work. There isn’t a weak track on here and most of them are absolute humdingers. Tonally, it’s quite an odd mix – and I heard him on the radio (Dermot O’Leary, on R2 – which was rather bizarre!) explaining that half the album are angry songs of being pissed off at himself and others in matters of love and life, and the other is a really very touching love letter to his new wife. You’re unlikely to hear a more romantic songs than Chateau Lobby (“People are boring, but you’re something else”).

Now, I know we always get onto that discussion of authenticity and influence, so this record is a GREAT one to look at in that context. The band and the songs seem to me to be seeped in two obvious styles – one is country music (and 60s/70s country influenced singer songwriters), and the other is Beatles-esque (well, McCartney-esque, actually) melodies, all gorgeous descending chords or sudden explosions into beautiful middle 8s or choruses. God damn, but Josh Tillman (for that is his name) knows how to write a song. And no, they don’t feel ‘contemporary’, though the sequences on True Affection, for example, are a nice nod to the 21st Century. So yes, this is a record influenced by 50 years of rock music.

For me, there are two things that elevate it into something spectacular. The first is that authenticity thing. This guy means every word. We went to see him live on Friday (at the Brudenell). It was, needless to say, a fucking fantastic gig – and I can’t think of the last time I saw a performer throw every ounce of himself into a show. He feels this shit, man, and he cares about his songs. The 6 piece band were slick and brilliant and they rocked hard too. This guy isn’t an amateur. Oh, and THAT VOICE. Like honey.

The other thing that places this record squarely in 2015 is his lyrics. The darkly modern takes on the universe is so deliciously paired with this classic sound. I’m completely sold. You’d have to look hard to hear a better skewering of an individual than the vicious lyrics to The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment. In the wrong hands, this could almost feel mysogynistic, but you know he’s known this girl and he’s here to tell us just what a fucking pain in the arse she is. (“She blames her excess on my influence, but gladly hoovers all my drugs”. Love it!). And what about the piece de resistance – Bored in the USA. Eviscerating is the word. He just nails it, he nails everything that’s wrong about Western Culture in a song that could easily come across as pastiche. This an album steeped in anger, confusion, lust, love and fear. What could be more 21st Century than that? 😉

He does play with you a bit (see the fake piano playing on the Letterman appearances above – and the weird laughter track on the song, which I initially hated and now love), and I guess it’s hard to know where Josh Tillman ends and Father John Misty begins. But that’s part of the fun. If this isn’t my album of the year, or very, very close come December, I’ll be amazed. I hope you liked it just as much.