Altuesdays: Father John Misty tells an honest love story, warts and all, with “I Love You Honeybear

Altuesdays: Father John Misty tells an honest love story, warts and all, with “I Love You Honeybear

Grace Whitaker '22, Web editor

Listen to “Altuesdays Episode 4: Father John Misty’s “I Love You, Honyebear”” on Spreaker.</a>

His second studio album, dripping with raw emotion and cynicism, cemented his place in the alternative scene – Joshua Tillman, better known by his stage name Father John Misty, released “I Love You, Honeybear” on February 19, 2015. Don’t let the lovey-dovey title fool you, this album is an autobiographical account of love, yes, but also the hardships of a marriage and his struggle with fame and his identity as an artist. Tillman, former drummer of Fleet Foxes, went out on a limb with this album, but it paid, earning him notoriety in the indie scene and even TikTok fame seven years down the line.

The album starts with the titular song, what sounds like a lovesick ballad to his wife with acoustic guitar and impassioned piano. However, when you really listen to lyrics, “I Love You Honeybear” it becomes an unforgiving tale of a man’s existential crisis which he is trying to avoid through sex. This kind of song is exactly where Tillman’s talents shine through – he is a lyrical genius. Every song is a metaphysical poem with layers and dialogue but at the same time sounding just so good that you can enjoy it without slipping into the same existential dread.

Track two, “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), continues the theme of love and religion. It features acoustic guitar and upbeat drums and is by far one of my favorites. The song is easy to listen to while still having meaningful lyrics and a complicated tracking. This song has even recently gathered some popularity on TikTok, starting a trend where couples will dance together in the kitchen as mentioned in the song.

Moving into the third track, “True Affection” brings a whole different sound to the album, relying on synth and techno rather than Tillman’s typical acoustic sound. The song emphasizes the modern day reliance on technology in relationships. Something that really blew my mind about this song was how he was able to blend the sound of the song in with the meaning. I think this allows the song to still have validity on the album because while it may sound different Tillman’s songwriting abilities tie it back to the others.

Track 4, “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment”, is a perfect display of the character Tillman puts on as Father John Misty. It’s a cynical look at the attitude of casual dating in California. The song feels thematically out of place on an album largely about his wife, but still very true to his sound. I especially like this song because you can listen to it with a satirical point of view and the song is almost humorous in a sort of dark and twisted way.

Skipping ahead to track six, “Strange Encounter” shows a clear shift in the album. Where he remains obscue and metaphorical in other songs, this track very explicitly follows a storyline. Its contents are heavy, but complemented nicely by the imagery and emotion Misty is able to bring through his voice while still maintaining a calming tone. .

Track seven “The Ideal Husband” takes the shift created by the previous song and runs with it. Contrary to the very calming sounds of the rest of the album, it opens with a blaring siren and heavy drums. Misty then proceeds to sort of scream-sing a list of wrongdoings he’s shameful of over heavy electric guitar. I like to think of “Strange Encounter” as the rising action and “Ideal Husband” the climax of the album. While it is definitely a sonic slap in the face and wildly different from the other songs on the album it miraculously fits very well among them.

Tillman is back to his typical sound with track 8; “Bored in the USA”. It almost acts as the comedown from the extreme sound of the previous number, while still remaining quite volatile in his lyricism. Much like “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment”, the tone of the song can change drastically depending on what point of view you chose to listen with. If you’re taking the commentary seriously, Tillman is making a heartfelt critique of the American existence, but if you take into account the satire of Misty’s persona and the comedically timed laugh track, the song is poking fun at that very same critique.

The album closes with the song “I Went To The Store One Day”. The acoustic backing paired with Tillman’s moving vocals tells the story of him meeting his wife and the love that they have grown together. He ties up the album, which is very focussed on his and his wife’s relationship, with hopes for how they will spend their old age together and the fear of that not being a reality. The way he is able to sing out such gut-wrenching lyrics with such a soothing tone will never cease to amaze me. I couldn’t help but smile at the wholesomeness of the track and how it wraps up such a beautiful album in dedication to his love.

I have not one bad thing to say about this album. The way that Tillman is able to blend the lyrics and layered metaphors with the acoustics is something I haven’t heard in any other artist. From song to song the album works almost as an autobiography of Tillmans relationship with his wife Emma; it tells the story of their love, the good and the ugly, cohesive in sound theme and emotion.