Father John Misty
I Love You, Honeybear



February 11th, 2015 | 672 replies

Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: I've said awful things, such awful things.

While it’s likely unintentional, the release of I Love You, Honeybear the week of Valentine’s Day makes for an interesting juxtaposition. The latter is a largely invented occasion for manufactured romance propped up by the service industry. The former takes all the trappings of a plastic holiday – the bombast proudly displayed in its arrangements, the sentimental, almost painfully direct nature of its lyrics – and covers it, as Father John Misty describes his bed in the title track, in “mascara, blood, ash, and cum.” It’s a record concerned not with the illusion of love we like to sell each other this time of year but the one that actually drives people to pick out those corny cards and tell someone they love them without artifice or shame, something bloody and real and often all too fucked up.

On his 2012 debut Fear Fun, it was sometimes difficult to tell where the Father John Misty persona, usually drunk and horny and disastrously enamored with Los Angeles, ended, and Joshua Tillman, the long time songwriter and ex-Fleet Foxes drummer responsible for him, began. There’s no such confusion here. I Love You, Honeybear is a borderline uncomfortable listening experience, so personal and finely detailed is its descriptions of Tillman’s life, his lovers and wife, his one-night stands and common mistakes. His recent marriage informs every song here, from the delirious lovemaking of the title track to the self-destructive wake-up call of “The Ideal Husband” to the idolatry of “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me.” Tillman’s neuroticism would be off-putting if it wasn’t so finely tuned, able to celebrate the flaws of others while not letting his own go unpunished, turned bare with a critical eye and a biting turn of phrase. We don’t just get the dizzying fall of “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” where a lover can do no wrong (“you left a note in your perfect script / stay as long as you want / I haven’t left your bed since”) and she like, totally gets you (“I haven’t hated all the same things / as somebody else since I remember”). We also get the poisonous jealousy and selfish possessiveness of “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” and the nagging self-doubt and overbearing thoughts haunting “True Affection.” “Bored in the U.S.A.,” meanwhile, is a caustic survey of its protagonist’s “achievement” of predetermined social milestones, the track’s canned laugh track a searing indictment of the worthlessness of another person’s standards on one’s own happiness. Yet the track’s most indelible lyric is the one spoken between a love growing old: “Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider all the ways / I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades / I suspect you feel the same.”

Tillman takes his musical cues from his confessional forebears, ‘70s singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne and James Taylor, his soulful tenor a warm and inviting presence that makes his refreshingly modern lyrics and transparent sensibilities all the more affecting. Tillman envelops his songs in the same bucolic Americana that was already in fine form on Fear Fun but here buttresses the proceedings with a more grandiose production style, a touch of mariachi horns here, a surprisingly deft synth-pop turn there. There’s also a bit of solo John Lennon, the cynical asshole who’s not above viciously ripping a girl obviously trying to impress him on “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt” (“She says, like, literally music is the air she breathes / and the malapropos make me wanna fuckin’ scream / I wonder if she even knows what that word means / well, it’s literally not that”), but who is still down to bed her anyways in an abrupt, unsettling climax (“I obliged later on when you begged me to choke you”). It’s a gorgeous song, an almost swooning folk lullaby that stands in sharp contrast to its sneering jerk of a narrator. Tillman seems to find a twisted pleasure in showing the listener that he remains as mired in the smug dirt and contorted judgment as the rest of us, smitten or not. It’s certainly an open question throughout the album whether love can truly change someone for the better. As the typically incisive Tillman notes on the gospel-tinged “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me,” "I can hardly believe I’ve found you and I’m terrified by that.” Finding someone who makes you examine all those disgusting qualities you’ve built up over the years, and to will yourself not to destroy it all? Yes, terrifying is just the right word for it.

I Love You, Honeybear ends with two of its simplest, most candid snapshots. For all the album makes of Tillman the skeptic, Tillman the wisecrack, Tillman the asshole, both “Holy Shit” and “I Went To The Store One Day” strip down all the layers Tillman has built around himself and endlessly picked apart, like a worrying bird, into the record’s core: love the one you’re with. “Holy Shit” turns a litany of historical touchstones into an angry rhetorical question, where the things he’s told to love don’t match up with what he’s actually feeling, or ever felt, really. “Maybe love is just an economy based on resource scarcity / but I fail to see what that’s gotta do with you and me,” he sings, the realization that there’s only one thing out there that really matters. That feeling is more concrete on “I Went To The Store One Day,” a song where all the veils Tillman has thrown up as Father John Misty are torn down into a gently fingerpicked portrait of the day he met his future wife. The strings that rise up behind his wispy lyrics would be saccharine in any other context. Here, they represent a frailty too easily broken. A chance meeting, a lucky aside; these are the kinds of things that make or break entire relationships. “For love to find us of all people / I never though it’d be so simple,” Tillman whispers, before daydreaming about a future that may never come and coming to a beautifully uncertain conclusion: “Insert here / a sentiment re: our golden years.”

Father John Misty can pretend to know what’s to come; Josh Tillman is realistic enough not to even try. I Love You, Honeybear is the rare love letter that manages to capture all the ugly, bitter sides to a relationship, the angles covered in shadow and hidden behind front doors, because it understands that these are the moments that make up a full and fulfilling relationship between two people with issues and histories and feelings that are more often awful and conflicted than not. Love is never a Hallmark card. I Love You, Honeybear makes you glad it isn’t.

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user ratings (913)
other reviews of this album
thekilleruser (4.5)
Stunningly romantic....

OswaldDatenzwal (4)
Only Father John Misty has the self-awareness and frankly the intelligence to apply his own tendency...

Comments:Add a Comment 
February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 4.3

"Holy Shit" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TXdtZLrsZc

enjoy this one, my favorite of the year so far

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 2.0

this was probably the disappointment of the year so far for me. The only reason Fear Fun was good was because the stand

outs (Hollywood Forever, This is Sally Hatchet, Nancy etc) outweighed the really shitty honkytonk tracks. Those few

highlights (Hollywood and this is Sally hatchet in particular) were two of the best songs of 2012 easily. But this album has

nothing of the sort, there are a couple listenable tracks here and there but none of them get anywhere near the highlights of

Fear Fun. Completely forgettable record I'm sad to say.

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 2.0

just relistened to "Holy Shit" just to see if I wasn't in the mood but yeah, nothing.

February 11th 2015


good stuff as always matey


February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 5.0

Bookmarked. Sounds like something I'll enjoy the shit out of.

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

gave this a once-over on its release day but haven't really had time to spin it since

really nice record though

February 11th 2015


Ditto bookmark, also summary should be mascara blood ash and cum

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Nice review. Really loving the album. Started to list the song that i liked the most but it was almost all of them.

February 11th 2015


this is probs the kind of review that's devilishly better than the music so I'll jam the record first and then read

February 11th 2015


that track you linked sucks tbh

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 3.0

Like Sun Kil Moon much?

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 4.3

disagreed hard potsy obvie. hollywood might still be his best song tho i dk

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 4.5

Brilliant fun.

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

hands down klap another awesome review man.

holy shit's lyrics are the best on here

@ sniff

no way

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 3.5

So excited to listen to this

Glad it's getting good reviews

Fear Fun was the shi, yo

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 4.0

More than anyone this reminds me of John Grant, but with less grandiose and more spite. I like it quite a bit, but there are certain lyrics where I don't know whether to laugh or squirm.

Amazing review etc etc.

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 2.5

been meaning to get dis. hopin' for da best

February 11th 2015


Sooooo good

February 11th 2015


'this is probs the kind of review that's devilishly better than the music so I'll jam the record first and then read'

This IS the kind of review that's devilishly better than the music (imho, of course), which is gutting as I really want to like this. I just can't look over the twee-70's aesthetic this has, even with the pretty interesting lyrics. The review was really amazing however.

February 11th 2015


Album Rating: 1.5

in the bin

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