Anyone familiar with my Bright Eyes fixation of nearly well over a decade will be aware that when it comes to music I’m (I mean, why mince words here?) a sucker for a “tortured soul”-type full of self-loathing and cynicism, who possesses the poetic finesse with which to spin his bleak outlook into the most heart-wrenching of verses. Someone who demonstrates the kind of unrepentant honesty that almost surely would be off-putting in real life, but from a safe distance makes one feel like a confidant. Like Conor Oberst, Josh Tillman (masquerading as Father John Misty) ticks all these boxes with the added bonus of having the voice of an angel (whereas an old girlfriend of my brother’s once compared Conor to a goat). There aren’t exact parallels between the two, of course… Oberst is mopey and introspective; Tillman, jaded and callous. If anything, I’ve pegged Justin Vernon as Tillman’s indie-music-universe foil-slash-nemesis, what with their whimsical pseudonyms and beards and affinities for women named Emma.
In any case, “I Love You, Honeybear” is one of those albums that just makes you feel so many things. It’s filthy (“Mascara, blood, ash, and cum on the Rorschach sheets where we make love” are the album’s opening words, if you don’t count the three crooning “Honeybear”s that precede), hilarious (“She says, like, literally, music is the air she breathes; and the malaprops make me wanna fuckin scream. I wonder if she even knows what that word means.”), sweet (“You left a note in your perfect script: ‘Stay as long as you want.’ I haven’t left your bed since.”), confessional (“I didn’t call when grandma died. I spend my money getting drunk and high. I’ve done things unprotected, proceeded to drive home wasted, bought things to win over siblings; I’ve said awful things, such awful things.”), anguished (“Now I’ve got a lifetime to consider the ways I grow more disappointing to you as my beauty warps and fades.”), but above all, beautiful. Basic folk melodies get fleshed out with these great brass and string arrangements, plus all those vocal harmonies… Haha. It’s nice. Really worth a listen (or seventy).
(Oh also Marlon got me the vinyl for Valentine’s Day, so that‘s pretty awesome too.)
(Oh also, don’t get me wrong– for all the talk of goats and mopeyness I’m still very much on Team Oberst.)
For more FJM fun, you could check out his appearance on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast; his meandering, admittedly self-indulgent (but engaging!) personal-statement-of-sorts+”Instructiongs For Listening” (Also serves as an album insert. Whatever you do don’t miss the accompaniment to “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”); or Pitchfork’s write-up of “Bored in the USA” as Best New Track last November. “Maybe Tillman’s just one of us, not even sure if we’re being sarcastic anymore.”