What a difference a name makes. Giving up on his drummer role in Fleet Foxes, abandoning the Josh Tillman moniker for his solo work, dumping the sparse (if beautiful) droney treatment of his previous albums and taking up the consciously random Father John Misty has worked wonders.
Fear Fun is a gorgeous album of luscious Americana music with more than passing references to Roy Orbison, Harry Nilsson and unmistakable Beatles twangs. But this is no mere pastiche, he pulls together these historical references, turns them on their head a little and binds it altogether with a slew of what feels like confessional stories, and if anything it is this combination and the swing from the morbid to the illuminating that marks the charm and strength of this set.
The arrangements and sound are unerringly orchestral compared to passed work; the harmonies, the spaciousness, the greater strength of his voice this time around. No longer the wistful, fragile tone but now a greater presence and determination.
There are some wonderful lyrics and references in here too, often dealing with some glum issues, some of his inner demons ; the attention grabbing opening lines of ‘Oh pour me another drink/And punch me in the face/You can call me Nancy’ from Nancy from Now On; the references to Satre and Heidegger, and phrases that ring loud and clear for me, like ‘Every man needs a companion/Someone to console him/Like I need you’from the closer and highlight for me Everyman Needs a Companion.
A striking and wonderful work, something that feels adventurous but familiar, something dark and edgy beneath the unquestionable beauty of the music. It may have taken him a drug fuelled journey and the tackling of his own problems but if the advent of Father John Misty gives us music like this, we can only be thankful.