John Tillman, under the moniker Father John Misty, ushered in 2015 with a stunning release of his sophomore album, I Love You, Honeybear. This album requires several listens to uncover its genius. It’s effortless, while rooted in a complex amalgamation of emotion and perfectly constructed moments that could only be a product of care and control by Tillman. The record begins with “I Love You, Honeybear”: soulful, powerful, emotional, the lyrics boast of blunt honesty, of desperate cynicism.
But don’t ever doubt this
My steadfast conviction
My love you’re the one I want to watch the ship go down with
The future can’t be real
I barely know how long a moment is
Unless we’re naked getting high on the mattress
While the global market crashes
And debt fills the streets with garden variety oblivious
You grab my hand and say in I-told-you-so voice
It’s just how we expected
-“I Love You Honeybear,” Father John Misty
The rest of the album plays with different sounds, shifting from a floating folk ballad [“Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)“], paying ode to Tillman’s roots in folk with his time with Fleet Foxes, to a track that experiments with psychedelic electronics (“True Affection“), similar to the shift Sufjan Stevens made from his Illinois to Age of Adz, but within the span of two songs and maybe a little less bold. Father John Misty returns mid-album back to his soulful, passionate sound established at the beginning with “I Love You, Honeybear” and “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me“, characterized by poignant female “oohs” and “aahs” backing Tillman’s incredible, longing voice, and vibrating electric guitar and strings instrumentals, heightening the track to the emotional brink.
There’s no need to fear me
Darling, I love you as you are when you’re alone
I’ll never try to change you
As if I could, and if I were to, what’s the part that I’d miss most?
When you’re smiling and astride me
I can hardly believe I’ve found you and I’m terrified by that
–“When You’re Smiling And Astride Me,“ Father John Misty
Songs like “Bored in the USA“, which was released as a single back in November, speaks to the cynical humor that underlines many of the tracks throughout this album, adding another layer and deepening an album that at first seems to just be a compilation of love songs, like we’ve seen many times before. The lyrics are sarcastic and, at moments, almost angry; yet, undeniably poetic and raw.
Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways
I’ve grown more disappointing to you
As my beauty warps and fades
I suspect you feel the same
When I was young, I dreamt of a passionate obligation to a roommate/
Is this the part where I get all I ever wanted?
Who said that?
Can I get my money back?
-“Bored in the USA,” Father John Misty
The album concludes with “Holy Shit” and “I Went To The Store One Day“, both acting as points of self-aware reflection for emotionally plagued Father John Misty. “Holy Shit” is characterized by the marriage between a classic soulful rock anthem and an easy folk sound, while, at the same time, standing as distinctly Father John Misty. The track tries to grapple with the duality of the world outside and the internal turmoil of the individual. “I Went To The Store One Day“, complete with quivering strings, is a desperate farewell to an album that takes listeners through 44 minutes of emotional dissection through sexual frustrations and moments of existential angst.
Age-old gender roles
Golden bows and mercury
Bohemian nightmare, dust bowl chic
This documentary’s lost on me
Satirical news, free energy
Mobile lifestyle, loveless sex
Oh, and no one ever knows the real you and life is brief
So I’ve heard, but what’s that gotta do with this atom bomb in me?
-“Holy Shit,” Father John Misty
Now, in just one year’s time
I’ve become jealous, rail-thin, prone to paranoia when I’m stoned
Cause isn’t true love “someone oughta put me in a home?”
Say, do you wanna get married and put an end to our endless regressive tendency scorn?
Provincial concepts like your dowry and your daddy’s farm
For love to find us of all people
I never thought it be so simple
-“I Went To The Store One Day,” Father John Misty
Through the sensual vocals of John Tillman, dynamic instrumentals, and lyrics that demand to be remembered, I Love You, Honeybear holds nothing back and invites us into the uncensored mind of Father John Misty–“fucks” and all.