‘Honeybear’ finds Father John Misty at his most conflicted, compelling

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By Phil Brown, Reporter

I discovered Father John Misty through a mutual friend. Well, at least a one-sided, mutual acquaintance: Kid Cudi.

Cudi sampled the bearded crooner’s “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” in “Young Lady,” on 2013’s “Indicud,” when I was in the middle of an engrossing—albeit fleeting—Cudi phase. My musical infatuation with Father John Misty has withstood the test of time, however, and has been taken to new heights by Misty’s latest album, “I Love You, Honeybear.”

“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” a certified banger dealing with the weighty issues involved with having sex in a graveyard, from Misty’s debut, “Fear Fun,” is a fairly representative example of the Father John Misty conceit.

The music seems engineered to slide as smoothly as possible through the ears of the listeners. The production is relaxed and heavy on the nostalgia, the exaggerated “normal,” and the catchy. Misty’s vocal delivery is also pop-perfect.

The lyrics, on the other hand, lie in contrast. They’re deeply sarcastic, caustic and cynical in tone, yet simultaneously downright hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt. Misty is a persona of an embittered, cynical person who is somehow able to find the humour and heart in the most grim and grimy circumstances.

“Honeybear” executes this perfectly. The instrumentation has never been more poppy, more smooth and listenable, but it’s more diverse than “Fear Fun.” It channels “Fear Fun’s” familiar norm core rock aesthetic in the title track. It also churns out mournful ballads in “Bored In The USA,” and bubbly synth-pop in “True Affection.”

The lyrical contradictions of Father John Misty’s persona are taken to the max in “Honeybear,” and make the “Fear Fun” Misty seem positively normal in comparison.

Misty is more emphatic in this record, but emphatically undecided and conflicted. He ruthlessly rants against a privileged, ignorant lover in “The Night Josh Tillman Cameto Our Apt.” and longs for a deeper connection in “True Affection.”

Marriage hasn’t done his contradictions any favours. Misty loathes himself in “The Ideal Husband,” questioning his worthiness and bemoaning the “awful things” he’s said. To oppose, he doubles down on saying awful things in the aggressive “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow,” and glories in his conquest.

“I know its hard to believe a good-hearted woman could have a body that’d make your daddy cry,” he brags, and lashes out at those who approach “what’s his.”

The genius of Father John Misty is that his mess of contradictions are wrapped in such irresistible packages. The lyrics are whip-smart and slyly profound, and he delivers every punch line and caustic tirade with a vocal sincerity that demands respect for every ridiculous word.

The music is so perfectly catchy—without being obnoxious—that it’s easy to get drawn into Misty’s world. The effectiveness of this approach causes the listener to ponder every contradiction and implied question.

Misty’s album, while an over-the-top, bombastic ode to himself, causes the listener to truly consider the loftiest of questions: the nature of love, the concept of marriage and the process of communication and friendship. “I Love You, Honeybear” is a triumph of parody and an instant classic in the fledgling catalog of a truly all-American contradiction.

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