Think about someone you’ve know who was both bitingly clever and charmingly aloof; someone who knew they were magnetic but didn’t actually care if anyone acknowledged it. Remember how much you enjoyed being in the presence of that person? I Love You, Honeybear, the sophomore album by Father John Misty, is very much the musical version of that rare person from your memory.
I Love You, Honeybear(hereon out abbreviated ILYH) is a masterpiece of lyrical wordplay. Father John Misty melds the wordiness of Bob Dylan, the detail of Counting Crows, and the humanitarian disappointment of Say Anything, into vivid four-minute snippets of life. Taken as individual tracks, you get little musical movies. Taken as a complete work of art, you have an endearing and convoluted journey through a relationship that ends with, literally, the best closing line on an album ever. The standout quality of ILYH, however, rests not on the words themselves but on the fact that they are honest and in honesty you are allowed a level of exaggeration and pathos and humour that might otherwise induce a scoff or raised eyebrow. Whether reading or listening to the lyrics, they make you feel like you are listening to an actual conversation with the actual words of an actual person and that makes all the difference in the world.
With decades and decades of popular music to mine through and pilfer from, doing something truly unique is a rarity today. You can easily point fingers to the individual colours on Father John Misty’s palette but the final painting is something totally different. The Beach Boys are there. James Taylor is there. The Beatles are there. The Eagles are there. Even The Postal Service sneaks a few hues onto the paint tray. ILYH, though, is none of those things. Father John Misty takes both the best and most nostalgic parts of the music we remember the most and then builds on top of it. One bit of brilliance is the fact that most of the songs have a true orchestral background like the pop hits of yesteryear…that legitimately hasn’t been done in decades and it makes you step back and wonder why we ever stopped in the first place. I’ve never missed an electric guitar less than listening to this album.
The delivery. THANK YOU FATHER JOHN MISTY FOR NOT BREATHING ALL OVER THE MICROPHONE JUST BECAUSE THE ACOUSTIC GUITAR IS IN THE FOREFRONT. This man has one of the most perfect voices I have ever heard. Whether he is crooning surprisingly romantic sarcasm in Chateau Lobby #4 or being painfully and familiarly self-aware in The Ideal Husband, Father John Misty’s voice pierces through whatever soundscapes he has created. Stop for a moment and focus on his voice. He could’ve sang alongside Dean Martin just as easy as he could sing beside Bon Iver and he does it with the identical voice that rings true because it is so evidently one man’s pure voice.
Listen. Re-listen. You’ll find all the lines you missed in the lush scenery. You’ll catch what he’s really saying. You’ll discover a new instrument layered in the background. This is a classic album. I Love You, Honeybear will be on 99% of end-of-year top ten lists. It will likely win Best Alternative Album at the Grammys. I Love You Honeybear ,is gorgeous so it can be honest and honest so it can be funny and funny so it can be brutal and brutal so every word resonates deeply. So listen. And then listen again.