Review : Father John Misty - Fear Fun
PitchforkEven before he joined Fleet Foxes in 2008, Josh Tillman had established a sound that made virtues of austerity and quiet, pitching his songs at a slow pace that at best bristled with prickly intensity or at worst lulled nearly into nonexistence. His albums suffered when the melodies and arrangements were precise and exactingly purposeful, leading Paul Thompson to decry 2009's Year in the Kingdom for its "lonesome, somber tone, one Tillman-- a funny, amicable dude, if you've ever heard him clowning on himself at a Fleet Foxes gig-- would do well to shake on occasion." Whether intentionally or not, Tillman has responded to this kind of criticism with his eighth album and his first under the name Father John Misty. Perhaps freed by the new pseudonym or emboldened by his nearly four-year tenure as a Fleet Fox, Tillman varies things up on Fear Fun, reveals an adventurous palette, and makes what may be his best album to date. He's finally shaken that lonesome, somber tone, and these songs sound all the better for it: gregarious, engaging, even funny.
It can't hurt that he ditched Seattle for warmer, stranger climes. After a period of deep depression, he loaded up his van with shrooms and drove down the coast, finally settling in what he describes as a "spider-shack" in Laurel Canyon. Of course, Tillman is aware of that locale's revered place in pop history and of Greater Los Angeles' less reputable place in pop culture, and he lets them inform Fear Fun musically, lyrically, and conceptually. Even that new moniker, Father John Misty, sounds like a cult leader, keeping his flock sequestered in an old movie set up in the hills. And the lyrics suggest a Hollywood breakdown of epic proportions, loosely recounting his own walkabout with the sort of mischief and humor largely missing from his previous albums. He opens "I'm Writing a Novel" with a great first sentence: "I ran down the road, pants down to my knees, screaming,/ 'Please come help me, that Canadian shaman gave a little to much to me!'" It bodes well for his novel.
Fear Fun isn't merely a step forward lyrically; it also reveals new musical ambitions. Compared to his previous albums, it's positively kaleidoscopic: less content to be moody and pretty and more intent on getting up in your face. Tillman's warped interpretations and strange combinations of SoCal pop history seem to mirror his own narcotized state: With its billowy strings and triangle beat, "Nancy From Now On" could be Laurel Canyon disco, a mad-scientist hybrid that proves a perfect setting for his careening falsetto. "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings" is a Sunset Strip stomp slowed down to a near idle, and the countrified "Well, You Can Do It Without Me" finds Gram Parsons' headstone somewhere in Bakersfield. Every song has its own identity, and the album's slightly fractured vibe speaks volumes about the place that inspired it....full text
Utne"I never liked the name Joshua, I got tired of J.," reveals former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman on his new album Fear Fun, opting for the less serious moniker of Father John Misty. The shedding of his former identity and the arrival of a new one not only comes in the form of a new name. It's as if the J. Tillman of old, the one heard harmonizing in Fleet Foxes, and creating solo albums of harmless folk songs, was born anew with an edgier style, a stronger propensity for rock-influenced songwriting, and a fresh haircut.
While this rebirth of sorts may have fans of his previous work slightly concerned, there is no need to worry. Fear Fun manages to hang on to the core appeal of Tillman’s previous work while charting new territory in both lyrical content and musical approach....full text
ConsequenceofsoundOnce the drummer for Fleet Foxes from 2008-2011, Father John Misty’s J. Tillman has been releasing solo music of his own since 2003. After a bout of depression in Seattle, Tillman set out to traverse the western coastline with no particular destination. Fuelled by mushrooms, wanderlust, and other substances, the resulting material came forth in the form of Fear Fun, the debut under Tillman’s new nom de plume, Father John Misty.
Fear Fun’s 12 tracks provide an aural parallel to a drug and whiskey afterglow– the aches and pains of the morning-after hangover, wincing at bright sunshine filtering through the blinds. Tillman sculpts a sparkling album that’s equal parts morbid, ambling, and luminous. The monotone droll of opener “Fun Times in Babylon” provides a languid overture to 40 minutes of sinister lyrics with disarming veneers.
This theme is best exemplified on lead track “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”, notable for its driving backbeat and casual handling of death and strange love (“Jesus Christ, girl,” Tillman croons, “It hasn’t been long so it seems since I was picking out an island and a tomb for you at the Hollywood Cemetery.”) “Nancy from Now On” provides a dreamy, Harry Nilson-inspired retro feel and a wonderfully NSFW-dominatrix-themed video. A quarter of the way into the album, it’s apparent that Tillman is an enigmatic man with many vices, though he claims to simply be seeking an outlet for bottled-up ennui in the making of this album: “I didn’t want any alter-egos, any vagaries, fantasy…any over-wrought sentimentality. I like humor and sex and mischief.” Well, it’s all there: the ladies’ man story lines, “smoking everything in sight,” gagged and tied bodies in the backs of vans—dark images and reckless memories packaged into a whirlwind trip put forth in album form....full text
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