I've been thinking about Father John Misty's sophomore release I Love You, Honeybear ever since it came out, which is now almost exactly a year ago. A concept album about Mr. Misty (a.k.a. Josh Tillman) getting married, the record ought to be in my wheelhouse -- I'm unabashedly pro-love -- and yet Honeybear never quite clicked with me.
Why not? I gave the album a new bunch of spins lately after its strong showing in Pazz & Jop to maybe figure out why. Ultimately, I think Honeybear begins and ends beautifully, but the middle section sags under the weight of too many fussily-arranged tunes. It's a marriage album in which Tillman's cleverness sometimes outpaces his melodies or his insights. At its best, the record resembles something that Eels would do -- E has a penchant for utilizing concepts to give a collection of songs a structuring device -- but Honeybear's candid acknowledgment of the panic/excitement involved in saying "I do" is a bit too conceptual for my taste. Sentimentality can be wince-inducing, but so can manic, self-conscious irony.
That said, there are plenty of stunning tracks. "Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" is one of them, and this bit always, always, always kills me...
First time you let me stay the night despite your own rules
You took off early to go cheat your way through film school
You left a note in your perfect script
"Stay as long as you want"
And I haven’t left your bed since