In 2012, Fleet Foxes fans were in upheaval as drummer Josh Tillman quit the sticks to ride solo for good. Under a new pseudonym, Father John Misty was born.
While, Fear Fun (2012) was well received, the album was merely a placeholder for greatness to come. I Love You, Honeybear is a romantic whirlwind of brutal honesty.
As the album name suggests, this record is not lacking in love songs. The title track sees Tillman reveal the nitty gritty details of his relationship with his wife. The singer’s ability to make such graphic lyrics sound sweet is truly outstanding, only on close inspection do the melancholic undertones reveal themselves.
Throughout the record, Tillman’s style varies from folk-pop (“Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins”)) to soft rock (“The Ideal Husband”) and even a taste of electronica (“True Affection”). Nevertheless, one thing that remains constant throughout is Tillman’s ability to accompany his beautiful harmonies with the most agreeable sounding lyrics.
“The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” paints the best kind of imagery in the audience’s mind: “Oh, I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man, I mean like a god damn marching band.” The track is one of the few evidently not inspired by the singer’s wife, and hears Tillman complain about the pretentious, hipster ex-girlfriend that so many know too well.
Another lyrically noteworthy track is “Bored in the USA”. “My brain’s so awfully glad to be here for yet another mindless day” sings Tillman, contemplating the well-worn theme of a crumbling American dream. The on cue laughter tracks after each of the singer’s revelations heighten his cynical outlook on life after milestones.
Tracks like “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” contrarily show the singer’s faith in humanity returning. Tillman sings about the vulnerability of love and letting another see all of you: “That’s how you live free, truly see and be seen.” Although the track is cheesy in parts, it’s a nice change from the overbearing emotionality in others.
Through dark humour and tongue-in-cheek comparisons, the singer veils a message that is first and foremost a reality check for romantics. In the words of Tillman, “No one ever really knows you and life is brief.” Brilliantly performed and harshly executed, Tillman has stepped up the game for songwriting. I Love You, Honeybear is truly a gorgeous album.