Father John Misty : Fear Fun
As the dust settled on another hallowed Fleet Foxes album, the various members scatter and make hay with their side-projects. On the downside, Poor Moon (featuring two Fleet Foxes members) have released a five-track EP of dull AM radio rock that hardly leaves you anticipating any further releases. On the positive side, the new album from ex-drummer Josh Tillman is a wonderful release. Like Poor Moon, it glorifies classic American rock, but Tillman succeeds in retaining the mysterious nature of Fleet Foxes (without layering on harmonies or inviting in a bedraggled druid to play windpipes).
Tillman has the advantage of having cut his teeth on several solo albums prior to this, though none of those can quite match the grand sweep of Fear Fun. It’s surely not a coincidence that he’s name-changing at the same time as a game-changing shift in musical style. As the first release to use a moniker other than his own name and his first since leaving Fleet Foxes, the Father John Misty debut is a triumphant mission statement for Tillman.
Tillman has a commanding vocal presence and a knack for reeling you in with a killer lyrical hook. The memorable "Jesus Christ, girl" and "Someone’s got to help me dig" refrains in Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings help cement it as an ideal choice for a single, though it’s hard to go past the preceding song, Nancy From Now On, with it’s hilarious opening lyric, "Oh, pour me another drink and punch me in the face/You can call me Nancy."
While the less ambitious compositions can border on derivative, his absurdist lyrics never lack ambition and this depth of storytelling is the real key to Father John Misty’s success. New layers unfold with every listen, reflected in lyric sheets that fold out to reveal expansive literature in small font. Nice to get some study notes, but it’s no comparison to just lying back and letting the splendor of Fear Fun wash over you.
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Best Track: Nancy From Now On
If You Like This, You’ll Like These: Say Us ZEUS, Pearly Gate Music PEARLY GATE MUSIC, Queen Of Denmark JOHN GRANT
In A Word: Eloquent