Music Review: Father John Misty – Fear Fun

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Father John Misty
Fear Fun
Available now on Sub Pop (May 1, 2012)

“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.

The Father John Misty aesthetic shines on the album’s first single, “Hollywood
Forever Cemetery Sings.” Backed by a hypnotic drumbeat and a grinding electric
guitar, Tillman delivers darker lyrics than on previous projects – a staple of Fear
. On the slow jam “Funtimes in Babylon,”
Tillman showcases his talent for tragic imagery, singing, “Ride around my
wreckage on a horse knee-deep in blood / Look out Hollywood here I come.” Another, “I’m Writing
a Novel,” channels the Beatles’ “Ballad of John and Yoko” with a lively beat, a
gang of riffing guitars and a squealing organ pad. Other tracks find Tillman
paying homage to classic 70’s country western guitar work, handclapping fiddle
shufflers, and synth-laden disco grooves.

Tillman’s announcement earlier this year upon his departure from Fleet Foxes
said, in part, “Farewell Fleet fans and friends. Back into the gaping maw of
obscurity I go.” Lucky for us, Tillman was rejected by that maw, and it has
thrust him back into the spotlight as Father John Misty. Here’s a stream of the entire album from the Sub Pop YouTube page:

Ben Sauder is an Online Editorial Assistant at Ogden Publications, the parent company of Utne Reader. Find him on .

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