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Record in Review: Father John Misty’s I Love You Honeybear

By Pat Gunther

The second studio album from former Fleet Foxes drummer and solo artist Josh Tillman, better known as the folk hero Father John Misty, marks a drastic change in his life as an artist and as a human being. I Love You, Honeybear, released via the revered Sub Pop Records, explores Misty’s headfirst dive into a passionate and never-before felt love. Over the 11 tracks and 46 minutes, Misty delves into different instrumental experiments and lyrical themes that firmly establish this record as one of the best two months into the New Year.

 

The titular track is a country/folk inspired ballad that sets the tone for the rest of the record with the cooing “oohs” and romanticism veiled under Rorschach sheets and plummeting global markets. Clearly, Misty is exploring uncharted emotional territories with his unabashed sweetheart lyrics through the first three songs. Despite this, Misty’s most adventurous instrumental endeavor comes in the form of the third track, the Postal Service-inspired “True Affection.” From there on out, Misty holds our hand on a winding chronological journey through his entire relationship with wife Emma Garr.

 

The ultra-soulful, softer, Black Keys-influenced “When Your Smiling And Astride Me” proves to be one of the more catchy tracks on a record full of them, and leads us into a musical meadow of sometimes twangy, and often full-bodied guitar work that Misty masterfully incorporates in differing fashions in every track across the record. His musical influences are clear, but distant; while his lyrical prowess is personal and inviting, making this record a brilliant conglomeration of delightful relaxed or impassioned instrumentation and tonalities.

While drawing from the influences present in California’s legendary Love Street and it’s attraction to lost souls, I Love You, Honeybear majestically portrays the pure bliss and utter terror and self-doubt that shrouds the kind of love that is fast, hard and unexpected. “The Ideal Husband” serves as the album’s most rock-heavy track before getting into the lead single and standout cut “Bored In The USA,” a soft and coy ode that served as the LP’s lead single, which her performed on Letterman well-before anyone had gotten a taste of I Love You, Honeybear.

 

Though dripping with overt sentimentality on the surface, Father John Misty told Grantland’s Sean Fennessey “You see me just being like, ‘Am I seriously writing a love song?’ That awareness, I think, is a big part of what I do that helps me live with myself as an artist and as a human being.”

 

While Misty and his wife are currently residing in NOLA living out their deep, intimate days, Misty’s album serves as an in-depth glimpse inside the mind and unfiltered emotion of a brilliant and grand instrumentalist and songwriter. The finale “I Went To The Store One Day” outlines their happenstance encounter at the Laurel Canyon Country Store and serves as a sentimental look back on, and a hopefully romantic future placed in a relatable, touching project filled with personal and intimate moments that are nothing short of beautiful.

 

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