Fear and Loving from Father John Misty

Joshua Tillman has created two memorable records in an age where it’s difficult for anything to stand out. He has a soulful voice that blends well with his alternative-folk/rock arrangements. He’s been compared to Harry Nilsson which is understandable, I also hear elements of Dennis Wilson and John Lennon in his brutally honest and dark lyrics. His lyrical style welds pleasant sounding words to horrible ones in the same sentence and the effect is chilling but also exciting for the listener. Here’s one example from Fear Fun in the song Misty’s Nightmares 1&2 “On the last night of the Chinese Year I need a warm hand over the water, Ever since I lost mine in the fireworks disaster….” I Love You, Honeybear has more of the same with these lyrics from the title track: “The future can’t be real, I barely know how long a moment is unless were naked getting high on the mattress while the global market crashes.” His idea of love songs are interesting because they give me the same feeling I have when I watch the end of The Graduate. The ominous Sounds of Silence plays under Ben and Elaine’s escape from matrimony and onto a bus going to an unknown but unpromising future. The effect can be a little much for the length of an album but the musical arrangements give each song its own breathing space to keep everything from being too bleak. Tillman is an amazing singer which also makes the songs compelling and I hang onto to every note just waiting for the floor to drop out from underneath. That feeling makes the title of his first FJM record Fear Fun very appropriate but the tone of Honeybear is similar if not more focused on the relationship he has discovered. Father John Misty also mixes the right amount of humor into this dense world which adds a much needed layer of levity, which again reminds me of John Lennon’s work. Tillman is the kind of artist that makes me question how long he can sustain his angst since he has delivered two heavy records, at what point does all of the weight collapse? I also wonder if he finds sustainable love and happiness in his personal life will his future records reflect that or does his pessimistic view of the world keep the outrage churning? Even the packaging of the records has encouraged my interest with FJM since both CD releases are crammed with vivid graphics, fold outs and even a pop up surprise in Honeybear. It feels like a throwback to a time when artists and record companies wanted to say something with the way a record was presented. I haven’t been this intrigued with a new artist in a very long time so I will patiently wait for the answers to these questions and in the meantime enjoy two strong recordings from an experienced artist who has found his voice. As pop music fans, we are all the better for it.

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