I Love You, Honeybear -
There is no doubt about it. As its name would suggest, I Love You, Honeybear is all about love. Pure, unadulterated, rock you to your core love. Through a diverse set of tracks, Tillman explores themes of affection, commitment, and self-deconstruction. And he does not hold back, becoming a complete sap over his love and devotion to his wife Emma.
Right from the opening title-track, the chorus triumphantly proclaims “I love you, Honeybear.” He opens his heart, and is not shy in letting you know why they are perfect together. His verses are punctuated by moments such as, “My love, you're the one I want to watch the ship go down with.”
The ride of love continues into the second track, “Chateau Lobby #4". It is one of the album’s most lusty and physical, backed with driving horns you would hear in a Spanish ballad. Tracks such as "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow", "Strange Encounter", and "Ideal Husband" provide an introspective look into Tillman. He absolutely rags on his character and all the flaws that come with it. These narratives pair well with sentimental moments such as "When You’re Smiling and Astride Me". These contrasts show one of Tillman’s biggest strengths. The emotion in the music feels real. There are no empty gestures or stories on the album. It comes across completely down-to-earth, as he relentlessly tears himself down while singing endless praises of his wife.
Another one of Tillman’s strengths is a great sense of comedic relief. He never takes the album too seriously. This shines in the tracks "The Ideal Husband" – which describes exactly the opposite – and "Bored in the USA" – which plays off the famous Springsteen song.
The album keeps itself lively and energetic despite its subject matter through consistent, but diverse sounds. Tillman matches the subject of "The Ideal Husband" with the album’s most aggressive sound. He lets loose in the closing minute, as he screams his way through a drastic and personal breaking point. On "I Went to the Store One Day", he closes the album with lush strings and vocals to tell a sweet tale of his marriage’s future. For the most part, Tillman keeps a strong pop-sense and brings replay value to the music.
However, FJM’s tendency to change styles comes back to bite him on "True Affection". He rolls with an electronic sound, and he does not do anything particularly interesting with it. The track just seems to stick out as a musical sore thumb. And while "Bored in the USA" is a nice song by itself, it’s a bit distracting. Acting as a detour from the main subject matter.
While love is a relatively simple concept in music and has certainly been done before, Tillman’s endearing character carries the record. His romantic tales of the past, present, and future are some of the most compelling you will hear. This isn’t Disney or fairy-tale love. It’s raw and real. Full of honesty, humor, and captivating emotions – Father John Misty delivers a wonderful album backed with a catchy and gorgeous set of sounds.
Favorite Tracks: "I Love You, Honeybear", "Chateau Lobby #4", "When You’re Smiling and Astride Me", "Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow", "Strange Encounter", "The Ideal Husband", "I Went to the Store One Day"
Least Favorite Tracks: "True Affection", "Bored in the USA"
Pure Comedy -
From Pure Comedy’s opening cut, it is clear Tillman fails where he previously succeeded on I Love You, Honeybear. Taking the album too seriously. The album tackles a wide range of social issues and ailments, but ultimately fails to say anything that truly sticks. It lacks the raw, emotional punch of his last musical effort. Tillman is not as convincing as a deep-diving philosopher. You felt a lot more when he was just singing about his wife. The record just seems to lack a real sense of energy and relatability.
Without getting too detailed about the lyrics, Tillman does a decent job of describing all of his worldly opinions. "Leaving LA" is a 12 minute adventure of harsh Hollywood criticism. The title track is a solid introduction to everything that’s wrong with society. "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution" is an interesting “what-if” about the world. "So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain" is my favorite narrative of the album. FJM tells a story about an elderly man reflecting on his youth, and it presents one of the more relatable and laid-back cuts from this record. But besides these select few, Pure Comedy feels repetitive. It’s as if he took "Bored in the USA" from his last album and extended it over 74 minutes. It can get old pretty fast.
Musically, Tillman ditches some of the pop appeal he had on Honeybear and instead aims towards more ambitious instrumentals. Strings and horns are featured prominently, giving the album a grander scale. Although the replay value is much lower here. Highlights include the moving orchestral section of "Leaving LA" that builds up over the lengthy track. "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution" builds up to one of the album’s most lively climaxes, and then fades into a piano ballad that is built like a signature Elton John song. "The Memo" is most experimental cut from the record, featuring intriguing vocal distortions.
Overall Pure Comedy is a solid return for Father John Misty that does not pull its punches with the world’s social issues. However, the album falls short by taking itself too seriously. While Josh Tillman once again brings his signature sense of humor on some of the tracks, the album lacks any meaningful impact. It all becomes rather exhausting through the album’s extended run time. While I wish there was some more aggression in the music, Tillman shows an improvement in his composition by arranging an impressive set of instrumentation.
Favorite Tracks: "Pure Comedy", "Total Entertainment Forever", "Things It Would Have Been Helpful to Know Before the Revolution", "Leaving LA", "A Bigger Paper Bag", "So I’m Growing Old on Magic Mountain"
Least Favorite Tracks: "Birdie", "Smoochie", "Two Wildly Different Perspectives"