Father John Misty is the stage name of indie-folk singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Josh Tillman. For a few years, he was the drummer in Fleet Foxes. He downplays his association with the band, saying that by the time he joined the band, they had already released a couple of records, and they had already blazed their own path to stardom. He says that all he had to do was learn the drum bits and go along for the ride. He joined Fleet Foxes in 2008, but he had already been making records under the name “J Tillman” since 2004. Under that name, he released seven solo records, including two in 2009. Last year, he decided to start using a stage name. Unfortunately, he’s been sort of oblique when asked about the genesis of his name. He’ll give some deliberately vague response, punctuated by some phrase like “You either get it or you don’t. If you don’t get it, I won’t be able to explain it to you.”. Either that, or some bizarre long-winded explanation that involves a lot of mysticism and Freudian psychology. Whatever.
The first record that he recorded under the “Father John Misty” name was Fear Fun, which was eagerly anticipated and met with favorable reviews. A lot of people have lined up to call it their favorite record of 2012. Or at least in their top 15.
Fear Fun won’t end up in my year-end list, but there are a couple of brilliant songs on the record. Tonight’s song is probably my favorite.
“Only Son of the Ladies’ Man” by Father John Misty
It’s not often that I’ll comment on the title of a song, unless it’s in a language other than English. In this case, I’ll just say that I like the song title because it sounds like it should be the name of a Red House Painters song. The music doesn’t sound very RHP-ish and Tillman doesn’t sound much like Mark Kozelek, but I can almost imagine the song as a Red House Painters song. Or, I guess I should say that I can imagine it as a Sun Kil Moon song. SKM is sort of a different thing from RHP.
A guy who slept with a ton of women has died. He left a lot of broken hearts, a lot of single mothers and a lot of out-of-wedlock daughters behind. And epic sadness is washing over them all. They all loved him. He was a ladies’ man. I’m not quite sure what to make of it, but I’m sure that there’s some Greek mythology in there somewhere, and some other creepy stuff. Some of which I might be reading too much into the lyrics. I’m not going there.
This is just a really lovely, albeit sad, song with some great Fleet Foxes-type vocal harmonies. It’s just Josh Tillman singing, but they layered and chorused his vocals to create harmonies. I really like it. It’s kind of hard for me to believe, actually, that this isn’t a Fleet Foxes song and that Robin Pecknold isn’t singing.
Maybe you’re among the many who will list Fear Fun as a favorite album of 2012. I anticipated it a lot, but I just never fell in love with the whole thing. As much as I love a few of the individual songs, I’m just not enough in love with the album to put it in my list. My list which I hope to start on next week and finish in the last week of December.
You can buy Fear Fun from the Sub Pop Records web store here.