Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

2015's first true masterpiece?

You can't move this week for five star reviews and gushing praise for the latest bearded crooner – Father John Misty.

The alter-ego of Josh Tillman, drummer and harmoniser of Fleet Foxes (remember how brilliant they were?) has taken the world by storm with his raucous stories, huge sound, TV appearances with massive orchestras and blend of heart-breakingly beautiful melodies and cheery pop songs, all with a hint of weird.

Bung in a box with the likes of Bella Union label mates John Grant and Jonathan Wilson, producer of Misty's second album 'I Love You, Honeybear', and you'll be a step closer to understanding the remarkable talent and musical grace of Tillman. Like those contemporaries, he's pushing those pigeon holes away to bring you something that's really interesting, really listenable and really, really great. The whole album is an explosion of the past 70 years of pop, blues, folk and country from across America and Europe, mixed with some incredible musicianship and crazy ideas.

One moment you'll be channelling a Mexican-themed Glen Campbell in 'Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)' before you're suddenly wrapped up in '80's pop synths in 'True Affection'. The album really takes hold from third track 'The night Josh Tillman came to our apt.' – lyrically, it's dark; musically, it's as if the Carpenters set up at the school fete of your local Texan primary school. The strings smash you in the face as the vintage 'When you're smiling and astride me', starts – gentle Hammond and soulful backing singers evoking Small Faces or a dreamy George Harrison. The Wilson production is impeccable. Throughout, there are sparks of wonder that transcend Honeybear into genius – a dash of clarinet here, the canned laughter lifting from a crushingly melancholic tale like a clown at a funeral there.

It never rests and never tires. You can jump from 'The Ideal Husband', a hint of an early Super Furry Animals song, into the delicate Springsteen antithesis with before mentioned laughter of 'Bored In The USA', and you accept it. You're on Misty's journey. You feel his love and his heartache. When the final note of final track 'I Went To The Store One Day' comes, you feel relief for him, a bit sad maybe, or overwhelmed.

The lushness of the songs is often a cruel and clever oxymoron to the cutting lyrics, usually about Misty (or Tillman) being a jerk or the girl he's with not getting his complexity. He's a lovable sociopath. A sociopath with amazing string arranging and harmonising skills. He says it's a concept album where, by the end, "sex, violence, profanity and excavations of the male psyche abound'. Best of all, it never takes itself too seriously.

It makes for an album that constantly excavates your mind and soul. In some ways it may have too many ideas, just falling short of Grant's 'Pale Green Ghosts', which marries electro, folk and orchestral in a way that remains so simple and stripped down. But '…Honeybear' is easily a masterpiece and already one of the best albums of 2015.


Words: Gemma Hampson

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