Love is a drug. The nervousness, the kissing, the sex, and the general act of falling in love can be traced to Adrenaline, Dopamine, and Serotonin. A correction is called for then: Love is drugs.
None of this is lost on Father John Misty (real name Josh Tillman), whose latest offering, I Love You, Honeybear is a scattershot tale of love, including the addiction and the high associated with it. The album itself borrows from 1960s acoustic folk/pop, with The Beatles and early Bob Dylan being ready influences- Misty's "When You're Smiling Astride Me" is a nod to The Beatles' "Something." However, what keeps Honeybear from seeming too cookie-cutter are twinges of soul, orchestral, fuzz and even electronica; all of which float across the album's 11 tracks.
Till Death Doth Us Part
The scattershot narrative is introduced on the title track, the album's first offering, where the world ends. Well, it's in the process of ending, and "while the global market crashes" Misty and his wife Emma are making stoned love on a filthy mattress; a sort of middle finger to the inevitable. The chorus then reminds us that "Everyone is doomed/Nothing Will Be Spared/But I love you Honeybear."
"Chateau Lobby #4" is the follow-up track. It's a tale of Misty and Emma's first time. See, I don't throw around terms like "scattershot narrative" to sound hipster cool, I do it because this album is non-linear as all hell.
For example, there's a cute-sounding song about Misty going to a fan's house to get some; a country jaunt that has a particularly messed up Misty scumming around a bar; and on "Strange Encounter" Misty reevaluates his life after he enabled a girl's alcohol poisoning.
All these vignettes loosely play with the motivations love brings about, giving the album messy yet structured feel. Frequent allusions to drugs support this as well.
True to form, the album ends with the beginning of Misty and Emma's relationship. The track "I went to the store one day" is heartbreakingly mundane, detailing the start of their relationship at a store. A relationship the audience know is on the eve of apocalypse, based on the intro.
The lyrics. Let's talk more about the lyrics. They come off like a sermon told by a world-weary pastor who's preaching in-and-out of consciousness. One track he's an articulate storyteller, the next he's sloshed or stoned off god-knows-what and pining for the meaning of life.
The best example of this is the one-two punch of "The Ideal Husband" and "Bored in the USA."
"Husband" is a spazzed, freakout-of-a-track, with an erratic Misty confessing every transgression to his future wife Emma- driving drunk, not calling when grandma died (not kidding), etc- in hopes that she'll wed him out of honesty. It also serves as a societal criticism of the stability marriage and parenthood has come to stand for, yet not necessarily represent. Just consider the divorce rate.
Where "Husband" is akin to an air raid, "Bored in the USA" is a slow burning piano ballad, featuring a concise list of everything wrong with America. We praise a "White Jesus," and the dream of love is nothing more than a "passionate obligation to a roommate."
The Gospel According to Misty
The acoustic guitar, present on nearly every track, anchors "Honeybear" with a religious vibe. Kind of like you're watching worship team at a local church. Except when lyrics like "I may act like a lunatic/you think I'm f***ing crazy, you're mistaken" take you out of the synagogue and onto a street corner. Although, the varied genres, specifically the orchestral strings, a soul choir, and a mariachi trumpet often make "Honeybear" feel downright spiritual.
According to Misty, being in (and out) of love can put things in perspective. Then again being on (or off) drugs can do that too. Valentine's Day is a consumerist holiday. Father John Misty hoped you spent it with someone you love.
Rec tracks: Bored in the USA, I Love You, Honeybear, Chateau #4, The Ideal Husband, Holy S***
RIYL: Fleet Foxes, J. Tillman, The Beatles, Bob Dylan