FATHER JOHN MISTY // I Love You, HoneybearQuentin Stille aka DJ Q // Hip-Hop Hotdish Host // Sunday 9-11 p.m. on KUMD 103.3 FM
Love & Other Drugs
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 Are Smiling and 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.
The lyrics. Let’s talk more about the lyrics. They come off like a sermon told by a drug-addled 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 spastic freak-out of a track, with an erratic Misty confessing every transgression to his future wife Emma — driving drunk, not calling when grandma died, etc. — in hopes that she’ll wed him out of honesty. It also serves as a societal criticism of the stability marriage and parenthood have come to stand for, yet do not necessarily represent, especially considering 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.”
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, make 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,” the follow-up track, is 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 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 re-evaluates his life after he enabled a girl’s alcohol poisoning.
All these vignettes loosely play with the motivations love brings about, giving the album a messy, yet structured feel.
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 knows is on the eve of apocalypse, based on the intro.
The Gospel According to Misty
The acoustic guitar, present on nearly every track, anchors “Honeybear” with a religious vibe. It’s kind of like you’re watching a 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 church. However, the varied genres, specifically the orchestral strings, a soul choir and a mariachi trumpet often make “Honeybear” feel downright spiritual.
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 hopes you spent it with someone you love.
FOCUS TRACKS // Bored in the USA, I Love You, Honeybear, Chateau #4, The Ideal Husband
RELATED ARTISTS // Fleet Foxes, J.Tillman, The Beatles, Bob Dylan
You can hear this album and more indie jams during The Basement on KUMD 103.3 FM Duluth Public Radio — student run radio every night after 9 p.m. Stream online at KUMD.org. The Basement is Duluth Underground Radio.