FATHER JOHN MISTY
I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)
In 2012, Josh Tillman (aka Father John Misty) brought a desperately needed dose of humor to indie rock with Fear Fun ,a ramshackle album about moving to Los Angeles and falling into various adventures, happily tweaking modern notions of manhood. On I Love You, Honeybear , his follow-up, he occasionally overplays this wry cynicism, lobbing zingers at his wife’s misuse of the word “literally” and naming songs with bad wordplay like “Bored in the USA.” Digging a bit deeper, this ode to marriage in a crumbling society is biting, resonant, funny, and catchy. Tillman moves further away from the Fleet Foxes-like sound of Fear Fun (he served as that band’s drummer) to incorporate more of the sparkling country influences of ’70s-era Laurel Canyon folk-pop, while also sliding his voice through the computerized blips and bloops of “True Affection” and the ghostly backup vocals of “Strange Encounter.” Along the way, he details the ups and downs of monogamous romance and shrugs at the absurdity and futility of modern American life, tapping into post-millennium paranoia and grappling with deep depression by the album’s end. The only time the concept doesn’t quite work is when he goes the whole Jack Nicholson (that is, as Jack Torrance in The Shining ) route with “The Ideal Husband.” Honeybear is not quite the startling masterpiece that Fear Fun was, but Tillman has a storyteller’s gift for unpredictable lyrical phrasing, an ear for melody, and an evocative, booming voice to bring it all home.