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Father John Misty

Father John Misty and J Tillman

Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., May 11, 2012

Phases & Stages

Father John Misty

Fear Fun (Sub Pop)

Josh Tillman bears an old soul. And not just in his wise-beyond-his-years demeanor. He's crotchety, riddled with existential angst and a dimming worldview. On his Sub Pop debut, the self-anointed and self-aware Father John Misty bemoans everything from his birth name ("Everyman Needs a Companion") to the petroleum it takes to press vinyl records ("Now I'm Learning To Love the War"). Fear Fun is that glorious bummer, steeped in the pastoral warmth of Laurel Canyon ("O I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me"), Harry Nilsson's warped balladry ("Misty's Nightmares 1 & 2"), wry country soul ("Tee Pees 1-12"), and Sixties pop grandeur – often all in the same song ("Nancy From Now On"). Tillman's first post-Fleet Foxes album offers a natural extension of his profane trinity for Austin's Western Vinyl – the gold rush of 2009's Vacilando Territory Blues, close companion Year in the Kingdom, and 2010's stark confessional, Singing Ax – only wilder and woollier, with fuller production and backing by psych-folk contemporary Jonathan Wilson. The main attraction remains Tillman's stunning voice – capable of converting the harshest skeptics – but there's a newfound narrative streak at work here, too. His novella Mostly Hypothetical Mountains is reproduced in the liner notes and most tracks boast absurd subtitles, most tellingly the sprawling "I'm Writing a Novel," aka "Believe Me, No One Will Mistake You for a Woodsman (Once We All Have To Live There and the Actual Woodsmen Declare Marshall Law)." Black humor, demons, g-o-d, easy women: Welcome to the cult of Father John Misty. (Father John Misty blesses Mohawk, Saturday, May 26.)

****

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