About a month before the album’s official release, the singer-songwriter “leaked” a MIDI version on his fake online streaming service, SAP. Had I not been a fan of Father John Misty previously, I would have thought he was crazy. But Tillman, being the subtle jokester he is, knew exactly what he was doing when he made this album – both the MIDI and “real” version.
The voice Tillman portrays as Father John Misty is far from the man we know from Fleet Foxes. I Love you, Honeybear exemplifies this persona to the finest degree. The album begins affectionately with “I Love you, Honeybear”, in which you can almost taste Tillman’s love for his wife while simultaneously picturing the end of the world. Next “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” enters the scene. It is both a brilliant parody of sappy love songs and yet beautifully earnest.
The energy is pumped up in “True Affection” and “The Ideal Husband”, with lyrics to match. “She says like, literally, music is the air she breathes/ And the malaprops make me want to f***ing scream /I wonder if she even knows what that word means /Well it’s literally not that” quotes Tillman in “The Night Josh Tillman Came to our Apt.”. This is a perfect example of the sarcasm and wit that is becoming so characteristic of Father John Misty.
Other songs are not so blatantly cynical. In “I Went To The Store One Day”, a scene unfolds in which Tillman meets presumably his wife if a parking lot, followed by a series of sentiments; a marriage proposal of sorts. Although no one can doubt the sincerity of his emotions, we still here those classic little snips of sarcasm in lines like “Insert here a sentiment re: our golden years”. I didn’t think it was possible to have such a perfect marriage (no pun intended) of cynicism and romanticism, but Tillman brings the two together perfectly.
That is the thing that I love most about Honeybear. I can really feel both Josh Tillman and his stage alter-ego in all of his songs. Whether he is romancing you with “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me”, or taking a pensive look at his life in “Bored In The USA”, one can almost visualize Tillman’s thoughts and feelings as he made this album.
This album reaffirmed my belief that Josh Tillman is, in fact, a genius. As in his previous FJM album, Fear Fun, he presents a unique worldview and an attitude so wonderfully cynical that the listener can never truly tell if he is kidding or not. But that is the gospel of Father John Misty, and that is why he is one of the savants of today’s music industry.