When a drummer decides to give up the sticks to become a front man it is impossible not to groan and think of Phil Collins. But Father John Misty has broken the mould and delivered a fine solo album, indeed a creative product that trumps anything his erstwhile mates in the Fleet Foxes have ever served up.
I use the term ‘product’ deliberately, because ‘I Love You Honeybear’ is more than just two sides of vinyl: this is a proper musical treat, replete with enough detail on the album cover to keep you occupied for the entire bus trip home from Rough Trade, a full set of lyrics, and an accompanying ‘Exercises for Listening’ pamphlet with guidance for each track.
The songs themselves are witty, sharp and knowingly self-critical – albeit that the whole album walks a careful tightrope that constantly invites the listener to question whether what they are listening to is really a fictional tale of rock ‘n’ roll excess, Father John Misty being the alter ego of the real life Josh Tillman, or something more autobiographical.
Indeed my favourite song, ‘The night Josh Tillman came to our apartment’, gets deep into that territory and contains the best lyrics on the album, describing Misty/Tillman’s regret at an unfulfilling relationship: “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 words means / Well it’s literally not that”.
But back to the ‘Exercises for Listening’. Here’s how to best to enjoy the above track:
1. Get up early and take a drive out to the country.
2. Find a spot where the sky is the biggest and lay down a blanket.
3. Wait until noon or whenever the sun is highest in the sky.
4. Star gaze.