Father John Misty cover“That’s how you live free,” Josh Tillman sings on the song “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me.” “Truly see and be seen.”

The song, off the second Father John Misty album, I Love You, Honeybear, comes rushing in with an instantly classic melody. Tillman washes the speakers with his soapy pronouncement. “I’ve got nothing to hide from you / Kissing my brother in my dreams / Or finding god-knows in my jeans / You see me as I am / It’s true.”

And Tillman has been many things. He’s recorded under the name J. Tillman since 2004 and been a member in Saxon Shore and Fleet Foxes. I Love You, Honeybear is the follow-up to Father John Misty’s debut, Fear Fun, from 2012.

The opening title track falls out jangling from the saloon. It’s tied together loosely with whomping drums and sparkling piano keys as Tillman wails for his lover, “high on the mattress while the global market crashes.”

There is still an air of Fleet Foxes folk in each song, but it’s been whisked away from the country and into the low-slung neighborhoods of beachfront property. The music lays in the weeds of late-Sixties folk, caught up in the ocean breeze. There’s a slippery steel guitar here, a country twang right around the corner, and Tillman’s ego laid out on the sidewalk to fry.

On “True Affection” a dubby beat machine takes control of every swirling melody. The slow single-handed piano lilt of “Bored In The USA” moves like one long, meaningless day. Past regrets stumble from Tillman’s tongue until he repeats the title long enough for the humor to wear off and be replaced by melancholic disappointment.

The shucking and jiving of “The Ideal Husband” gives Tillman a chance to make a pretty blaring case for his hand in marriage, despite screaming it at seven in the morning.

Through the album Tillman stares down the emerging premonitions of his aging self, “obsessing over grey hairs” and looking back on his trouble-making past, but he’s found a lover worth keeping. His girl calms him. She makes everything okay. She “gets down more often than a blow-up doll,” he sings on “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow.”

I Love You, Honeybear is easily one of the best albums of this infant year, sure to only get better over these next eleven months.

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