I like to think that when I look back at writing for this newspaper years from now, some of my articles, even written through the constraints of a music or film review, will reflect somewhat what state of mind I was in. After all, even behind this faceless writing you see on the page or screen, I’m sitting here with my word document open (hello!) trying to come up with something that conveys how I feel about this album — Father John Misty’s, “I Love You, Honeybear.” I — as are many others — am often cynical and sentimental at the same time. It’s an unavoidable object that many of us grapple with in our own minds all the time. It’s cliche to even talk about the cliche that we are supposed to, at least on the outside, conform our emotions in certain ways at certain times. It is even more difficult then, to accept our own flaws, put them on public display, accept them and try to move on.
“I Love You, Honeybear” finds Father John Misty (aka J. Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes) putting all his dirty laundry, cynical feelings and sentiments on the table, and allowing us to judge or relate to them. His honesty and sincerity on extremely difficult personal topics, combined with simultaneously lush and provocative folk and folk-rock arrangements make for one of the best albums of not only the year, but of the decade so far.
A look into the title track reveals Misty’s brutal honesty and sincerity. “I’ve brought my mother’s depression / You’ve got your father’s scorn and a wayward aunt’s schizophrenia / But everything is fine,” he sings unflinchingly over a plodding beat and sleek guitar. As in this song, most of the album is centered around his relationship with his wife Emma, and a handful of women who came before her, for whom his sentiments are not usually great.
The sincerity of the love for Emma is just as potent as the hate for other women, as Misty sings on “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.,” “She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes / And the malaprops make me want to fucking scream / I wonder if she even knows what that word means / Well, it’s literally not that.” Accompanied by a contrastingly pleasant guitar, Misty’s sarcasm shines through as a hilarious coping mechanism.
Misty continues this alternating love and hate, hating himself while loving Emma (“When You’re Smiling Astride Me”), scathingly critiquing middle-class consumer culture (“Bored In The USA”) and confronting guys hitting on his wife while he was on tour (“Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow”).
Stuck at an intersection of self-doubt, pride, self-confidence, sarcasm and empathy, we all want attention, satisfaction and a feeling that we’re doing something right. “I Love You, Honeybear,” walks through that intersection bloodied and bruised, crashing cars surrounding it, mocking the very scene it created and yet still feels guilty about. Everything may not be easy, but in truth, we at least can see clearly. And in love, we have someone who accepts riding in your passenger seat without an airbag. As Misty sings on album highlight “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” “I haven’t hated all the same things / As somebody else / Since I remember / What’s going on for? / What are you doing with your whole life?/ How about forever?”
Rating: 4.5 stars