What’s the sound of one hipster falling in love? Well, probably something a lot like the new Father John Misty album I Love You, Honeybear, on which these two songs appear.
“Chateau” is the standout, a marriage proposal set to a swooping, lush arrangement. It starts with the singer comparing the object of his affection to a queen and proceeds to offer a series of disclaimers about that affection couched in smarmy sexual metaphor (“I’ve never done this/Baby be gentle/It’s my first time I’ve got you inside”). This guy is obviously smitten, hiding behind a smokescreen of sarcastic asides and metacommentary, aware he’s doing this, and hoping the woman is aware of it too as he tries to make sound offhand something that’s really, really important to him:
People are boring
But you’re something else completely…
Until finally with a mumble he jumps in feet-first:
Damn, let’s take our chances.
After he takes his chances he takes her in the kitchen while she wears a “wedding dress someone was probably murdered in” and then attempts to express to her the inexpressible joy of finding someone who hates all the same things he does. Saying “I love you” used to be easier, huh?
“The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.” is the opposite of these desperate cool, over-the-moon sentiments: a vicious, unpleasant takedown of a woman who’s good enough for the singer to sleep with (and, at her request, choke erotically) but not much else. It’s funny, as the singer in an Elton John-ish croon (Misty denies the influence) enumerates the woman’s faults:
Of the few main things I hate about her
One’s her petty, vogue ideas
Someone’s been told too many times they’re beyond their years…
This is Loudon Wainwright III, what-a-dick, men-are-dogs territory. Misty in his obscure, self-indulgent liner notes (one gets the impression “self-indulgent” is a familiar phrase to and for him) seems to want us to think of the song as representing the awful person he was before true love came along and transformed him. I prefer to think of it as sung to the same woman he’d just idealized a few songs before, the singer on a bad night admitting to all the mean thoughts he’d hoped love would erase from his mind. (The title points to this interpretation, since “Josh Tillman” is the real name of the “Father John Misty” character.) Which places us in far more interesting Jason Isbell, bifurcated-mind territory, plus makes the song unexpectedly charming: All right, I can own up to still seeing all these real-or-imagined faults in my beloved. But you know, I also still love her. What the fuck.
The rest of the album is more of the same, with Misty/Tillman alternately criticizing one woman and all women, admitting to any number of personal sins and shortcomings, bemoaning the state of the world, and marveling with awed gratitude about his ability to fall in love anyway. I have a soft spot for these West Coast smart alecks with a taste for orchestral arrangments, Newman, Nilsson, Zevon, the mouthy children of Brian Wilson. So, to my ears, compelling stuff, but as they say on the Internet your mileage (and patience) may vary.