sat 06/06/2020

CD: Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

CD: Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Overegged solo album from former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman

Arch, meandering and stilted

Fifteen seconds into I Love You, Honeybear, it’s clear this an album concerned with sonic grandeur. Strings swell while a mournful pedal steel evokes the dejection of Gene Clark’s White Light, the 1971 album by the ex-Byrds member which has come to define the nexus of the grand musical gesture and the intimate missive. As the title song album-opener progresses, Joshua Tillman sings “I’ve got my mother’s depression.”

I Love You, Honeybear is the second album from Tillman in his Father John Misty guise and follows his 2012 departure from Fleet Foxes – he was their drummer. Overall, it’s his ninth solo album – he has also recorded as J. Tillman. His former band hasn't gone far though. Behind the mariachi trumpets of “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” is a multi-tracked chorale which might as well be Fleet Foxes. Unfortunately, the solo voice of Tillman himself is colourless, thin and not built for carrying songs as ostentatious yet lacking in melody as the ones he has written for the current album. An extended love letter to his wife, it's a triumph of form over content.

Co-produced by Jonathan Wilson, I Love You, Honeybear is overshadowed by John Grant, who Tillman seems to overtly draw from. The opening lyrics of “The Night Josh Tillman Came to our Apt” are: “I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man, I mean like a god damn marching band, she says like literally music is the air she breathes, and the malaprops make me want to fucking scream, I wonder if she knows what that word means, well it’s literally not that." In clunkily aping Grant’s confessional style, Tillman lacks the essential compassion and humility. He even goes as far as including an electropop outing which Grant so successfully did with the title track of Pale Green Ghosts. Here though, “True Affection” does not gel with the rest of the album. Arch, often meandering and stilted, I Love You, Honeybear is hard to warm to. Go for Fleet Foxes, Grant or Wilson instead.

Overleaf: watch the video for “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” from Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear

Watch the video for “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” from Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear


This seems to be an overly harsh review, especially for such a triumphant record that is sure to become a classic. I Love You, Honeybear is one of the most emotionally moving albums I've heard in a long time. I'll concede the point that there is a strong John Grant vibe on this record, but Tillman pulls it off with grace and makes it his own story; I don't believe he's 'aping' Grant at all. Grant is an incredible songwriter, and there is no issue with Tillman letting Grant's influence shine in his own work.

I don't think the review is overly harsh at all, for me it was a relief to read. I've wondered why so very many people write so glowingly of what to me sounds like self sanctimonious crap - whatever name he is recording under and yes I do include the Fleetfoxes in that too. I do however rather like John Grant, seems far more sincere and real...


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