By Lauren Kiggins, Culture Editor
Josh Tillman captivates the room.
Whether on stage at Terminal 5 or on TV as David Letterman’s guest, Tillman manages to capture listeners — wherever they may be — and makes them feel like no one else is around.
Listening to “I Love You, Honeybear,” Tillman’s second album under the Father John Misty moniker, does the same.
The album is a love profession of sorts, exploring the trials and tribulations of falling in love and finding a partner in his now wife, Emma, a filmmaker who Tillman met in the parking lot of a grocery store in Laurel Canyon, CA. Tillman sings, “Oh, and love is just an institution based on human frailty / But what’s your paradise got to do with Adam and Eve? / Maybe love is just an economy based on resource scarcity / But what I fail to see is what that’s got to do / With you and me,” in the penultimate song, only to sink into appreciation and bliss in the next track, “For love to find us of all people / I never thought it’d be so simple.”
Through his witty, and at times self-deprecating lyrics, Tillman is humanized. “I brought my mother’s depression / You’ve got your father’s scorn and wayward aunt’s schizophrenia / But everything is fine / Don’t give into despair / ‘Cause I love you, Honeybear,” he says in the opening song. The album is an honest web of the human psyche: reverence and profanity, self-doubt and hubris, companionship and sex — a far cry from Tillman’s evangelical Christian, Maryland suburbia upbringing.
Tillman left home, where he was forbidden to listen to secular music, after 18 years. Before long, Tillman dropped out of college and moved to Seattle to begin releasing dark folk music as J. Tillman and later, up until Father John Misty, as the drummer of Fleet Foxes.
Musically the album is strong: a 44-minute soulful ballad sewn together by powerhouse songs “True Affection,” “Strange Encounter” and “Holy Shit.” The remaining tracks don’t fall far behind. His lavish lyrics, combined with the tasteful, understated accompaniment of percussion and weeping strings, create an avant-garde story that marks growth from his 2012 debut album “Fear Fun.”
Tillman never reaches a conclusion on modern love, though concurrently capturing the essence of romance and intimacy. Together this culminates the true magic of “I Love You, Honeybear.”