Father John Misty’s sophomore album another pop-folk masterpiece

Father John Misty’s sophomore album another pop-folk masterpiece

"With his second album, "I Love You, Honeybear," Father John Misty once again proves his solo work is not just watered-down Fleet Foxes." Amazon

Misty, who goes by Josh Tillman when he’s not on stage, released his first record as Father John Misty, “Fear Fun,” back in 2012. Before that, he was the drummer for Seattle-based folk outfit Fleet Foxes, but “Fear Fun” assertively assuaged any fears that a Misty solo career would just be watered-down Foxes.

The first record deftly melded (and sometimes collided) ‘60s rock jangle, folk authenticity, country twang and soulful propulsion into an eclectic, idiosyncratic goop that was every bit his own. “I Love You, Honeybear,” released last Tuesday, is a lot more of the same.

The album-opening title track with its multi-tracked and interwoven harmonies is the one most likely to remind you of Misty’s former band. But the trebly guitar wah-wahs and shuffling, unsure drum cadence give the song an off-the-cuff impression that runs dichotomous to the precise, pre-arranged confidence of Fleet Foxes tracks like “Helplessness Blues” or “The Shrine / An Argument.”

“Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” is short and sweet, the song’s gentle guitar plunk and subtle tambourine clink wrapped in an orchestral swell of strings and chants that give way to lilting mariachi horns. The song’s narrator is at once nostalgic and anxious as he gives his take on the young couple’s lust-fueled relationship – both where it has been and where he hopes it is going – through a series of haphazard, anecdotal snippets that are equal parts lovey-dovey quips and nonsequitur 

Every second of “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” is soaring gospel soul, with a beautiful choir and resonant organ forming pillars of sweet-sounding support as Misty adds line after line to an aural edifice of reverential love. Contrast that with album-closer “I Went to the Store One Day,” in which Misty whispers over the barely-perceptible throb of an acoustic guitar before sliding into a thin, elegiac hum in the song’s waning moments.

If “True Affection” came on while you were standing in line at Starbucks, you’d think it was Bon Iver, with Misty’s ethereal vocal delivery warbling in and out of a thin, spectral falsetto. This track is dominated by a busy trip-hop drum machine beat pushed to the front of the mix.

You know when you’ve got six people coming over for dinner but the cookie recipe only makes four servings, so you do some fraction-multiplication voodoo, throw in a little sugar and chocolate chips just to be safe, shove it in the oven, then hope you did the math OK and everything comes out all right? That’s what this record sounds like, except Father John Misty didn’t fool with the math. When approached as a whole, these songs throw a bunch of stuff at the wall, looking just to see what sticks. And most of it does.

“The Ideal Husband” slams together chirpy, The Doors-esque organ with big, bad Dead Weather-ish riffs for the background noise of a panicky lover’s racing internal monologue. Oh, and he throws in the piercing wail of an air raid siren at select points just for good measure.

“They gave me a useless education / and a subprime loan / on a Craftsman home,” Misty intones dramatically over sparse piano on “Bored in the USA.” From the first song to the last of the dense and eclectic “I Love You, Honeybear,” he gives us everything but the kitchen sink.

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