Meet Father John Misty. Yes, he played with Fleet Foxes, but no, he doesn’t sound like a replicant. He didn’t break away just because he wasn’t totally finding himself in Fleet Foxes music, he broke away because he wasn’t finding himself anywhere. He told KEXP just exactly what it was he was trying to escape:
“Songwriting for me had always only been interesting and necessary because I saw it as this vehicle for truth, but I had this realization that all I had really done with it was lick my wounds for years and years, and become more and more isolated from people and experiences. I don’t even like wound-licking music, I want to listen to someone rip their arm off and beat themselves with it. I don’t believe that until now I’ve ever put anything at risk in my music. I was hell-bent on putting my preciousness at stake in order to find something worth singing about.”
Now, after recording under his own name for a bit, J Tillman, he has been reborn again as Father John Misty.
And the moniker fits, not only allowing him to have a more rock ‘n’ roll stage personality, but it also allowed him to create Fear Fun, his awesome new album. As you can hear, and see, in the video above for “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” (starring Aubry Plaza YES YES YES) he has definitely found a voice. His music ranges from sincere, but not overly sickeningly “wound-licking”-ly sincere, to ironic and laughable. “I’m Writing a Novel,” might be the tongue-in-cheek anthem to every confused-wants-to-be-a-writer’s daily existence, or to everyone who just doesn’t know how to keep themselves from being bored. I might mention his song “Now I’m Learning to Love the War,” riffing on the film title “How I came to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Bomb” - comedy abounds. But don’t worry, if humor, Heidegger, and Sarte aren’t really your cup of poppy tea, the next song on the album “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” takes us right back to where J Till - Father John Misty, got his starts, with Fleet Fox-esque composition and dreamy lyrics.
This album is wonderful - it’s got blues, beats, laments, humor - but it never allows itself to become trapped anywhere. Knowing Tillman’s backstory only makes the album better, it allows us to know where he has been and what he is trying to do now. Fear Fun is in the hotbox, or stream it at A.V. Club.