Look, by now Josh Tillman has had enough of a solo career for us not to mention the rather successful band that he sprung from. Father John Misty is one of Tillman’s delightful alt-folk avatars, with I Love You, Honeybear his attempt at a concept album about a narcissist finding love. It all sounds very worthy, yes, but it certainly grabs your attention quicker than you can say Fleet Foxes. (Oops.)
Tillman has romance on his mind, that’s for sure. It might be a wanton, hedonistic kind of romance, but there is something a little bit endearing about listening to this tale of a man pinballing from one destructive situation to another. The title track is a winning yarn of instant attraction, while Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins) is by turns amusing – “I wanna take you in the kitchen/ lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in” – and a marvel in string-backed production.
While some ideas might be a bit base (a song called When You’re Smiling and Astride Me, anyone?), their execution certainly isn’t. True Affection takes all the alt-folk tropes we know and gives them an electronic spin, Tillman’s falsetto and choral harmonies a surprisingly perfect foil for it all. There are times, of course, when the self-referential concept side becomes a bit too much and too knowing, but it’s all but forgotten when Tillman nails it on a track like Strange Encounter. Or, even better, taking a rather seminal American classic and sending it up as the tragicomic, laugh-track laden Bored In The USA.
More importantly, I Love You, Honeybear sticks as one of the more cohesive albums we’ve heard in the last 12 months. Tillman doesn’t break character for a beat (though how much of that is actually a stretch from real life isn’t something we have an insight into), and it’s a joy to be gripped by a narrative that is so rich it deserves at least a dozen listens to appreciate it. In fact, we’re off for another one now.