One thing you should do in your free time is go onto Soundcloud and search the artist name, Father John Misty. FJM, real name, Josh Tillman, is the former drummer of the acclaimed indie folk band Fleet Foxes who left in search of his own personal path of enlightenment. Leaving the prominence that Fleet Foxes had created was a struggle, but Tillman decided to split from the band in 2012 and recreated his persona to eliminate any chance of a cliché solo career.
Tillman, who was raised by a traditional Christian family in Maryland, has always tried to attain his true awakening and his true self. He believed that when he was with the band that he had finally felt like he found himself, but again those intense emotions came on and he split. He packed up and moved to Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles) and reinvented his image into this Early 60’s influenced indie rock star with a splash of a lounge singer.
If you have studied the album artwork above, you would notice that the images have religious significance with the distortion of psychedelic; the exact thought process Tillman intended to resonate with his audience as Tillman reinvented his whole image while on a spiritual and psychedelic journey.
Tillman debuted his first solo EP, Fear Fun, a journey of becoming conscious to the sudden change in his career. Tillman didn’t want to become pigeonholed into the same sound and image as his first professional musical endeavor. In the months while producing Fear Fun, Tillman met a girl named Emma one day at a Laurel Canyon grocery store. They almost immediately tied the knot.
Tillman’s new project would be to passionately portray his admiration and love for his new beautiful muse (one of the main influences of songwriting for musicians), while creating a story that would come alive and display his passion, while dripping in disassociated irony looking outward. I Love You, Honeybear does just that, creating a realistic image of falling in love in this day and age, the ups and downs, the paranoia and frustration, without losing the passion.
I Love You, Honeybear is deeply emotional; Tillman easily taps into his listener’s heartstrings and plays to a beautiful cacophony of feelings. The album outlines a relationship and the beauty of finding yourself in another’s arms; however his album also describes how predictable and how empty it can be to fall in love.
Tillman’s sophomore release is an emotional roller-coaster ride, that rises and falls like the waves of the ocean, pulling you each way with intense and intimate emotions. I Love You, Honeybear is Tillman’s emotional climax, creating an image of the physical emotions being ripped out of his soul and thrown onto the page.
In my opinion, this album is absolutely divine because it weaves together the mission of searching for true love, while also bringing in subliminal elements of Tillman religious background (artwork, religious teachings on life and love, etc.).
The theme of the album is embodied by the title track “Honeybear”, a passionate declaration of love from Tillman that has the essence of an early 60’s doo-wop groove. The emotions in this declaration are enhanced by the combination of Tillman’s voice, background vocals and the orchestral sounds behind him, helping the listener to understand Tillman’s true admiration.
That slow build up title track leads to the vulnerable but up tempo “Chateau Lobby #4,” a track that illustrates the initial stress of falling in love, fear of commitment, and taking that initial leap of faith. Tillman’s songwriting ability helps listeners to empathize with his innocence and naivety, expressing that finding love something supernatural, an intense emotion that all people can relate to.
This innocent track leads to his first real “test” of his relationship, “True Affection,” explaining how today’s technology can ruin relationships by diminishing the importance for a face to face relationship, or otherwise real relationship. Tillman continues his 60’s doo-wop theme in “The Night Josh Till came to our Apt,” another aspect of the album, in which I loved, but this song contrasts the title track because unlike the opening happy doo wop song, this songs invokes hate and pain. He expresses that love is not perfect; it can have pit falls, where one lover can fall into temptation, slipping into malevolent spirits through jealousy, petty fights, and overall spite toward one another.
This is the first angry track that Tillman writes, but then quickly transitions to his happy and beautiful orchestral piece “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me.” This track is Tillman’s reflection of his love causing him to question, “When I leave from time to time, what makes me miss her?” He writes about her ability to “see and be seen,” a pureness that few can conjure, almost painting her in this holy effervescence (an eternal spirit who can see the good in all things).
“Nothing Ever Good Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” is Tillman’s first real bluesy and melancholic sound on this album. With every note and lyric, you feel his pain and anxiety, but at the same time you feel his longing for Emma. Asking questions like, having it all, but are you enough? Tillman talks about the encounters where he rebuffs all invitations to have a one-night stand.
One aspect I like about FJM’s music is that even when you think its just a sad and lonely song, that wave of emotions comes back to swing the song back toward a positive light. The song climaxes with Tillman thinking about if Emma does the same as him while he’s away on tour. This song is dovetailed with the next track, “Strange Encounter.” Situations won’t always be ideal, but a strange encounter was not what he was expecting. Sometimes the passing strange encounters are the ones that are the most memorable, Tillman addresses just because it was strange, he wants another moment just like it.
“The Ideal Husband” was a perfect track to put on this album because it, in one phrase, breakdowns the stress of marriage and starting a family. Every man feels this anxiety of not living up to the expectations set forth by themselves and their partner. Tillman worries about his love life becoming public knowledge, like a file at the public library, and able to be accessed by anyone. The anxiety of being perfect for another person connects to this next track very effectively, due to the fact that Tillman states the public’s perception of life is Trivial.
“Bored in the USA” is FJM’s address to aid in his search for passion in this “mindless” life. This somber ballad paints the American public as puppets on strings or pets, trained to be attracted to whatever trend or movement comes along.
Jumping from this track to the 10th track “Holy Shit” is like flipping side one of 33 1/3 record to side two, this being the cheery and up tempo track. Tillman writes about different points in the world history in succession, creating this message that “Life is short,” so make the most of it. Go out and find that love, attain your dreams, do something you’ve always wanted. This song was an unintentional off shoot of roman phrase “Carpe Diem” (Seize the day), exclaiming about not missing an opportunity to create magic is this short lifetime.
The final track of this exciting album is “I Went to the Store One Day,” which was definitely my favorite track on the album because it culminates all the ups and downs and how love is not a victory march; it’s a constant fight. This soft and entrancingly beautiful ballad makes you dream of finding your perfect love in a single moment. Love is simple, according to Tillman, and that he would not be able to live without this full and inspiring love.
Tillman continued to amaze me throughout the album, creating such a linear and passionate story about love, but also illuminating the anxieties and pitfalls of love. The truly inspiring thing about I Love You, Honeybear is that with every song you can feel a wave of emotion in the notes, but also you can hear it and imagine Tillman’s heart pouring out into his music. This musician is a pure talent that I hope will continue to shock and amaze listeners, as much as he amazes his wife Emma.
If you haven’t listened already, take a moment to listen to this genius at work. I can’t wait to hear what is to come next from Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman.