Album Review: Father John Misty–Fear Fun

I first heard this album while sitting in the dark, nursing a glass of brandy and staring out the window, watching lightning in a thunderstorm. An apt atmosphere for listening to Fear Fun, an album that spools out trouble raining down in a very enjoyable way.

Father John Misty, a.k.a. Josh Tillman, is the former drummer of Fleet Foxes, and his solo music retains a bit of their pastoral element in its harmonies, but Fear Fun is an album that sounds, well, more fun than the music he made previously.

The record recounts what sounds like end-times in L.A., but Father John Misty isn’t worried about going down. He’s got a good sense of humor: “I ran down the road/ Pants down to my knees/ Screaming please come help me/ That Canadian shaman/ Gave a little too much to me/ And I’m writing a novel/ Because it’s never been done before.” I laughed out loud to that song, “I’m Writing a Novel.”

The backstory goes that Tillman was depressed while living in Seattle, the Fleet Foxes’ home base, and he decided to get out of dodge. He drove his van along the coast,  ingested a whole lot of ‘shrooms and began writing a novel. He found his voice, which eventually translated into songs.

Tillman now lives in Laurel Canyon, and he’s made an album that keeps it loose and keeps it tight. The melodies flow well, the rhythms have a playful alt-country vibe, and there are meditative moments in the music that give it depth. Tillman shows his competence as a musical artist, as well as his joy in creating this fine album. Fear Fun is a must-listen record of 2012.

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