Fear Fun, Josh Tillman’s first album as Father John Misty, introduced the music world to much more than a new moniker for the ex-Fleet Foxes drummer. Although not entirely confirmed by the man, Tillman’s antics via his relatively new moniker are meant to be taken as satire. Father John Misty is a sarcastic exaggeration of various modern music tropes, the state of the current music scene, and Tillman’s own weaknesses, including self-loathing and narcissism. Creating a musical alter ego can be deemed gimmicky very quickly, especially if the music doesn’t work. And that’s where it’s easy to stop discussing the character of Father John Misty. With I Love You, Honeybear, Tillman has overcome all of the hype. His strengths lie mostly in his ability to write near-perfect songs. All the other stuff just adds to the overall engagement of the performance, which is the best live show on the planet at this moment.
Let’s be clear. There is absolutely no filler on I Love You, Honeybear, and the album outshines Fear Fun from front to back. Of course, various tracks do become personal favorites. “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” instantly found its way on that list. The song transports to a 60s/70s era, swelling into a full orchestral composition with a lead guitar and vocals reminiscent of the more soulful side of Pink Floyd. “Strange Encounter” is another example of the brilliant songwriting that Tillman is capable of with Father John Misty. Those moments when Tillman’s lyrics gradually sweep across the vocal scale and croon over the silence of a dissipating guitar as a full orchestra kicks back in are beautifully conceived. The goosebumps still come, even after 100+ listens. I Love You, Honeybear appears as less of a conceptual exaggeration like Fear Fun and more of an extended dedication to his wife Emma. The resulting 44-minute love song is easily one of the best albums of 2015.