In a recent interview, Father John Misty was quoted as saying, “I just wanted to write about love without bullshitting.” What resulted of course is I Love You, Honeybear, the former Fleet Foxes member’s second solo effort and one that has a stronghold at the top of my Best of 2015 list. Humping your way through the financial crash, the isolation of technological wooing, not only not liking, but downright loathing your one night stand….writing about love has never been an easy task, but writing about love in the millenial generation is a whole other beast entirely. A task that Father John Misty is gyrating and laughing his way through.
How does one best describe love for the 30 something generation? An orgasm wrapped in an eye roll? Better loving through Instagram? As a modern single, I can tell you it’s definitely no longer a hand in hand trip to the soda fountain. My endless spin of Honeybear comes on the heels of another favorite of this year, comedian Aziz Ansari’s dissection of contemporary love, Modern Romance. In it, the comedian expands upon one of his recent stand up bits wherein he calls upon audience members to willingly offer up their cell phones and publicly discuss their recent texting and dating lives. What he noticed almost immediately, and eventually became the thesis for his book, is that modern love is marked with an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Has the co-evolution of the digital world and the dating world made us incapable of forming legitimate connections? Has the ability of literally swiping someone in or out of ours lives led to an incurable, preconceived boredom? Who can even get it up in a world where Donald Trump is a presidential contender?? While there may not be firm answers to any of these questions, they seem to plague my generation more so than any other.
Equal parts makeout mix and milennial malaise, I Love You, Honeybear tackles these issues one track at a time, punctuated all the more by FJM’s live performance. For what I expected to walk on stage the other night in Detroit, a singer-songwriter formerly of a band that single handedly helped to invent the beard folk station on Apple music, was instead a loose hipped lethario, side glancing his way through an incredible set. Somewhere between the synth pop disconnect of “True Affection” and the cheeky acoustic excess of “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” Misty brought to mind the biggest crush of my young anglophile days, Jarvis Cocker. Like Cocker at the height of his brit pop days, Misty has chosen a perfect combination of sexual liquidity and social commentary as his medium. With a flip of the wrist, he sashayed his way through the horror of a talkative one night stand in “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment” and the anthemic “Bored In The USA,” which, with its palpably medicated message could be the soundtrack to Ansari’s book. With so many choices in our split second world, is it possible to even make connections, let alone pen a love song? As Misty recounts in “Strange Encounters,” is the best we can hope for a post coital, near fatal drug overdose to bring us together?
Lucky for us, Ansari and Misty ultimately conclude: keep calm and mack on. Because sometimes, as the album’s title track suggests, there are those people you would call pet names, just as easily as climax to the end of the world with. And while filling a soul song with images of kissing your brother and professing yourself as a horny manchild may not necessarily make him your mom’s Marvin Gaye, it proves that Misty still finds value in a good old fashioned on-your-knees love song in “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me.” Even with terrifying as a qualifier, it is still possible to be surprised by love. Much like the song’s hapless Don Juan, Ansari too concludes that while our generation may be epic failures at dating, we are more likely to search for, and end up with, deeper and truer loves than those of previous generations. Along these lines, Misty appropriately ended the night with “I Went To The Store One Day,” a stripped down reminder to never underestimate the age old power of saying hi at the grocery store.
While I can’t predict what the next three months in album releases will bring, for now I can safely say that there isn’t much that could knock Father John off the top of my list for the year. Sixties soul meets tongue-in-cheek brit pop, meets New Order isn’t necessarily a combination I would ever think of and yet, somehow, Misty pulls it off perfectly and has me asking why it hasn’t been done before. Beneath the light of a giant heart flashing “No Photography,” illuminated still more by the irony of a million smartphones, Misty’s sermon turns the seedy into the mundane and the mundane into the seedy. Deranged, lush, wistful, and pompous, Honeybear proves that love’s farce is Misty’s gain. And sometimes, just sometimes, in between the ash and cum, we can hope for that special someone that hates all the same things we do.