Release Date: May 1, 2012
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Americana, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
Father John MistyFear Fun[Sub Pop; 2012]By Arthur Velez; May 24, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetAt about the three-quarter mark of the slow-burning closing track of Father John Misty’s “debut” album, Fear Fun, our protagonist croons, “Joseph Campbell/ and the Rolling Stones/ couldn’t give me a myth/ so I had to write my own/ Now I got hung up on religion/ though I know it’s a waste/ I never liked the name Joshua/ I got tired of J. . ” Supported by a down-tempo tambourine and mellow piano lines, Father John Misty seems to exude an ideological temperament similar to that in Neil Young’s (unfortunately orchestrated) Harvest classic, “A Man Needs a Maid,” — he's disillusioned by life’s current conventions, and feels a claustrophobic inability to escape what has become the day-to-day grind.
Fear Fun is Josh Tillman’s first record as a former Fleet Fox, and while the hallmarks of his old group punctuate some songs (“O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me”), the L.A. transplant is clearly in his own water. Though his vocal melodies sometimes plod into sing-songy melancholia, Tillman breathes into his arrangements, transforming the terse opening of “Nancy From Now On” into a neo-soul wonderland, and distinguishing himself as more than a back-row howler.
This is Josh Tillman's eighth album, but it's remarkable what a change of stage name (from J Tillman) and scene (he moved from Seattle to Los Angeles) can do, because Fear Fun leaves his previous work in the dust. Opening with a sardonic cry of "Look out Hollywood, here I come," Tillman stumbles through the haunted, hysterical LA of Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust or Neil Young's On the Beach. While the more honeyed moments recall Tillman's recent stint drumming for Fleet Foxes, others evoke the eccentric Americana of Harry Nilsson or the mordant screw-up wit of labelmate John Grant.
There are very rare instances when a musician leaves an established band to focus on a more personal project that ends up living up to his former band’s standards. There are even fewer instances where that musician ends up (arguably) surpassing them. Brent Knopf achieved that very feat this year with Ramona Falls’ Prophet, which has exceeded anything Menomena has done.
FATHER JOHN MISTY plays the Horseshoe Tavern May 14. See listing. Rating: NNNN For his subversively entertaining debut album as Father John Misty, singer/songwriter and former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman switched to a new moniker (he used to record solo albums as J. Tillman) and moved to Sub Pop.
Father John Misty is Josh Tillman, former drummer for Fleet Foxes, and for the heightened level of likeminded approach to his previous band mates displayed here, Tillman could be pegged as a blood relative. But he confidently establishes himself here, and with a debut album as Father John Misty (he's also released several albums as J. Tillman) that's every bit a match for the brightest moments of Fleet Foxes' latest release, it's obvious that Tillman couldn't have kept his light hidden under the proverbial bushel much longer with that band.
As J. Tillman, indie folk crooner Joshua Tillman painted sparse, often melancholic fever dreams that paired the wounded isolation of Nick Drake with the star-crossed country romanticism of Gram Parsons, a sensibility he also brought to the table as the drummer and backing vocalist for Seattle's Fleet Foxes. His latest incarnation, Father John Misty, adds Harry Nilsson and Skip Spence to the mix, skillfully imbuing the woodsy Pacific Northwest bark of the Foxes with a patina of vintage Laurel Canyon-inspired bohemia.
Having officially taken leave of his drumming duties in Fleet Foxes at the start of 2012, and with a host of solo albums as J Tillman packing out his suede knapsack, Josh Tillman has decided to start afresh. Casting himself as Father John Misty, a Laurel Canyon transplant equally repelled and fascinated by the self-centred sprawl of LA, his ‘Fear Fun’ is a country-leaning, wise-cracking masterwork. A droll riposte to those who think post-millennial folk music is po-faced, check out the urban hillbilly hustle of ‘Writing A Novel’ for lyrics loaded with offhand wit.
Father John Misty is many things, and it’s also nothing at all. It’s just a name that Josh Tillman settled on as a means to an end: To differentiate Misty’s music from J. Tillman, his other alter-ego that he’s been steadily releasing music under since 2005. And there’s also Tillman’s three-year shift as the drummer/backing vocalist in Fleet Foxes, a gig that took him around the world and to the top of the charts.
Even before he joined Fleet Foxes in 2008, Josh Tillman had established a sound that made virtues of austerity and quiet, pitching his songs at a slow pace that at best bristled with prickly intensity or at worst lulled nearly into nonexistence. His albums suffered when the melodies and arrangements were precise and exactingly purposeful, leading Paul Thompson to decry 2009's Year in the Kingdom for its "lonesome, somber tone, one Tillman-- a funny, amicable dude, if you've ever heard him clowning on himself at a Fleet Foxes gig-- would do well to shake on occasion. " Whether intentionally or not, Tillman has responded to this kind of criticism with his eighth album and his first under the name Father John Misty.
Father John Misty's conception may have begun when Josh Tillman fled his Seattle home, heading down the Pacific Coast carrying, as he puts it, “enough mushrooms to choke a horse.” Or it might have been months prior, when he ended his tenure as drummer of Fleet Foxes, just as the band was breaching new echelons of popularity. It could have even started years earlier, before that band's formation in 2006, or in his career as a solo artist, recording different music under different names. Whatever the timeline, the former background drummer has now transformed into a forefront figure, albeit under a semi-fictional guise, birthing one of the most interesting lyrical personas to crop up in recent memory.
It should come as little surprise that the eighth album by Joshua Tillman – and his first as Father John Misty – shares many of the qualities particular to Fleet Foxes, the singing drummer's former band. But Tillman's latest, though aching and bucolic, is home to a darkness absent from his ex-outfit's oeuvre, its lyrics awash with references to funerals, black dogs and "the beast come looking for last year's rent". At 12 tracks, though, Fear Fun could do with a good trim, the eerie and eloquent "Funtimes in Babylon" forced to rub shoulders with the lame "This is Sally Hatchet".
Once the drummer for Fleet Foxes from 2008-2011, Father John Misty’s J. Tillman has been releasing solo music of his own since 2003. After a bout of depression in Seattle, Tillman set out to traverse the western coastline with no particular destination. Fuelled by mushrooms, wanderlust, and other substances, the resulting material came forth in the form of Fear Fun, the debut under Tillman’s new nom de plume, Father John Misty.
Someone famous once asked “What’s in a name?” Well, rather a lot if Joshua Tillman’s anything to go by. After absconding from the good (and high-selling) ship Fleet Foxes, not to mention abandoning his J. Tillman solo project moniker, the newly-dubbed Father John Misty has made a similarly radical adjustment to his musical output. In fact, it’s the very nature of that name change, the sense of identity and all the necessary baggage that goes along with it that shapes what could well be called, now eight solo albums down the line, his new debut album.Leaving behind the acoustic dirges of his previous solo work, ‘Fear Fun’ is an altogether lusher record: where J.
Josh Tillman bears an old soul. And not just in his wise-beyond-his-years demeanor. He's crotchety, riddled with existential angst and a dimming worldview. On his Sub Pop debut, the self-anointed and self-aware Father John Misty bemoans everything from his birth name ("Everyman Needs a Companion") to the petroleum it takes to press vinyl records ("Now I'm Learning To Love the War").
Ex-Fleet Foxes sticksman gets superbly freaky on a special solo voyage. Martin Aston 2012 For all their stark and fragile resonance, neither album that Joshua Tillman had previously released in the UK – Vacilando Territory Blues and Year in the Kingdom, both issued in 2009 – suggested Fleet Foxes’ drummer was destined for a solo career. In fact, as diligent Tillman fans knew, the latter of the two was already his sixth; and a seventh, Singing Ax, followed in 2010.
Josh Tillman left his stint as drummer for Fleet Foxes earlier this year with a wry prediction. “Back into the gaping maw of obscurity I go,” Tillman wrote on his Tumblr page. That was an awfully insecure assertion for a guy whose new album is as righteous as “Fear Fun.” As Father John Misty, Tillman has resurfaced as a cosmic cowboy who probably would have been drinking buddies with Gram Parsons and Harry Nilsson.
Fear Fun is the debut LP from Father John Misty, the latest project of former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman. It was written in what he describes as “an immobilizing period of depression,” driving down the coast with a van full of psychedelics and a head full of inner demons. And from a lyrical standpoint, it’s got some pretty glum stuff. Over the course of the record, Tillman expresses his desire to be punched in the face, get insanely high with his ex-girlfriends, break things “like Howard Hughes” and go to funerals strung out on Adderall.