Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Father John Misty, better known as Josh Tillman, released his appropriately titled record “I Love You, Honeybear.” The album is the second effort from Tillman following his departure from folk rock band Fleet Foxes in 2011, and it finally shows him honing his skills as a solo artist.
Not only is this record considerably more thematic than its predecessor, 2012’s “Fear Fun,” but it also shows an increase in the skill of Tillman’s songwriting as Father John Misty.
At a runtime of 46 minutes, “Honeybear” is heartfelt and sincere, yet holds a lot of the same sarcastic wit as “Fear Fun” demonstrated three years ago. The album’s self titled opener “I Love You, Honeybear” is full of sweet yet oddly constructed nothings about Tillman’s love for his wife.
Lyrics like, “My love, you’re the one I want to watch the ship go down with” or “Everything is doomed and nothing will be spared/but I love you, Honeybear” set the veteran fans straight with a reminder that Father John Misty hasn’t undergone any changes emotionally.
The new listeners are simultaneously warned that the dry and vulgar yet beautifully articulated lyrics are a staple for Tillman’s project.
Yet the beauty and romanticism are still ever-present throughout the album’s 11 tracks.
The record’s lead single “Bored in the U.S.A.” is without a doubt the biggest and most prevalent example of this sarcasm: its chorus of “I’m bored in the USA, bored in the USA/Save me, President Jesus” tied in with its cheeky tribute to Bruce Springsteen’s historic song shines with dry wit as Tillman sings of the obsessions of middle-class America while an orchestra swells behind him.
All the album’s songs are structured and laid out in the same manner, different stories enhanced with bitter cynicism and beautiful guitar.
While other tracks like “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” or “The Ideal Husband” show similarity to songs on his previous album, “Honeybear” comes off as fresh and focused, emphasizing the use of guitar and vocals simply to compliment the altogether sound of the record.
From start to finish, “I Love You, Honeybear” is pleasant and pretty, bright sounds emanating to compliment the dark songwriting that Tillman employs.
A runtime of 46 minutes never seems uncommon anymore. From other records released this year like Panda Bear’s “Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper” or riot-grrrl punk act Sleater-Kinney’s new record “No Cities to Love,” this seems to be the only record in a month and a half where playing the entire album doesn’t feel longer than the actual time.
Some efforts in 2014 and the last few months are typically anywhere from 18 to 50 minutes, yet all feels labored and tiring once the record plays through completely.
Fortunately, “I Love You, Honeybear” is not a record like that. Father John Misty keeps songs simple and yet so complex, and in the span of 46 minutes accomplishes what few can: creating an album that actually seems to move quickly and still not skip over any crucial steps in the process.
For an artist who rarely seems to take things as seriously as everyone else in this panic and stress-fueled world, Tillman uses folk music as an outlet to not only get his commentary out the way musicians do, yet still manages to throw everyone for a loop.
The album’s cover, where he is depicted as a bearded baby held by a nun surrounded by animals of all kind in a random assortment, shows unnatural togetherness of living things, much like his music.
Then there’s the album’s lyrical content in songs like “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” where Tillman wails of “She blackens pages like a Russian romantic/Gets down more often than a blowup doll,” just a well-placed example of many in Father John Misty’s “I Love You Honeybear” that gets out more acerbic wit and solemnity in less time than it takes to cook a Costco lasagna.