Anna Prater, Chattanooga, Tenn. – “I Love You, Honeybear” is a record filled with dissonance.
While the notes and melodies float by beautifully throughout each track on Father John Misty’s second album, the lyrics that accompany each song are disillusioned, biting and often crude.
Father John Misty, or Josh Tillman, uses this technique to portray the light and dark in every interaction and experience he relates. This contrast is evident from the start.
The title track, “I Love You, Hon- eybear,” kicks off the record. Though the name and soft piano set the listener up for a sweet and gentle romantic tale, his words paint a very different picture.
Though he repeats the phrase, “I love you, Honeybear”
throughout the tune, it’s broken apart with lines of impending doom such as, “The neighbors are complaining / That the misanthropes next door / Are probably conceiving a Damien” and “I’ve got my mother’s depression / You’ve got your father’s scorn / And a wayward aunt’s schizophrenia.”
But Tillman doesn’t think that these lots have to determine the couple’s future success.
“But everything is fine / Don’t give into despair / Because I love you, Honeybear.”
“I Love You, Honeybear” feels like Tillman’s attempt at optimism and happiness. But at his core, he’s a realist.
And the closest he comes to romantic wooing is in the second track, “Cha- teau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” when he says, “People are boring / But you’re something else completely / Let’s take our chances.”
The most irreverent bit of the record comes at the end, as Tillman tires of the optimistic face he’s put on.
“Bored In The U.S.A.,” a play on Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.,” is the lament of the state of the American dream.
Canned laughter, his way of equating the American dream to an unoriginal television sitcom, plays as he sings “They gave me a useless education / And a subprime loan / On a craftsman home.”
While the words he sings can be cringe-worthy for the more conservative, the music that plays behind could easily act as an album of lullabies if the lyrics were removed.
Tillman uses this technique to tell a much deeper story – that the backdrop of our lives is harmonious and the words we decide to place on it turn it messy, and some- times, repulsive.
But as he’s shown, these elements don’t have to be in conflict with each other. On its own, the backdrop would put someone to sleep. And the words by themselves just sound like a really angry dude. But together, they make something important.
And the final track, “I Went To The Store One Day,” switches from the brash tone of the rest of the album to a final tone of sentimental sadness.
He tells the story of how he met his lover, and proposes for them to “Buy a plantation house / And let the yard grow wild / Until we don’t need the signs that say ‘keep out.’”