Sunday, December 23, 2012

Album of the Year: Father John Misty "Fear Fun"

Fear Fun

It takes a lot for me to fall head over heels for an artist or album. Granted I obsess about things such is my nature. However I never thought I would become a caricature, a decidedly over-aged frenzied version of some tween girl at a One Direction concert screaming “NIALL! NIALL!” But in a way I became just that one very wet November evening in the Workman’s Club in Dublin when at the corner of my eye I saw Josh Tillman or Father John Misty to use his quirky new moniker. There he was, finishing a cigarette less than ten metres away and seemingly about to disappear downstairs to prepare for his gig we had come to see. I was overcome with the most visceral urge to scream out his name like someone seeing their child walking on to a railway line before a train. And I did: “JOSH! JOSH!” I didn’t want to run over screaming and pin him to the ground like some lustful teenager, but that could have easily happened. As I slowly walked towards him in some sort of trance I probably did look that way to him. There then proceeded the most excruciating conversation of my life where before I had out of control vocal chords I was now tongue-tied, hand out to shake his with the marbled-up line of “Manchester last night? Cold? Thanks, see you”. It was an awestruck stupor, something I had never experienced before. I’ll never forget the horror and bemusement on Josh’s face and if he ever reads this, forgive me. Next time if you don’t already have a restraining order against me, I will be much more relaxed, agreeable and buy you a drink.

It goes to say that something must have caused me to have been infected by this man and his music. I had listened to one or two of his albums he had done under his own name and they were intricate, heartfelt, really beautiful pieces. I had listened to the Fleet Foxes, the band he played drums for a few years until very recently. Then back in May I had somehow stumbled upon the album Fear Fun not knowing who the artist was. It was a Father John Misty and after one listen I was enveloped by this strange all-encompassing feeling. It was like I had fallen down a rabbit hole in to this new world of lush sounds and fabulous, eccentric characters, laced together by haunting pianos, yearning guitars and a voice that sounded like it could tell a thousand stories. You felt like Josh was taking you in his hand, with a Jameson in the other and walking you through this land he had created, introducing you politely to all these wonderful people he had picked up along the way, a family of beautiful oddities.
Josh Tillman a.k.a. Father John Misty

Josh had left the rain-sodden Seattle, packed his bags and headed south to the warmer climes of California, took a ton of mushrooms and pondered writing a book. I don’t know if he ever got around to writing it but this album certainly feels like a novel. It is positively exuberant in sound and imagery. The feeling of sunlight cakes it sonically. Like a flower he opened up and a new beauty was there for all to see.

I never seem to listen to lyrics. Maybe it is my seeming ADHD, being all about the beat, the beat, the beat but I was always drawn to the lyrics in this album; quirky, sincere with a strong hint of romanticism to them. Then there is the music, a constellation of emotions woven through twelve songs, each seemingly a unique chapter. The twinkling cymbals and eerie piano in “Nancy from Now On” tickle you like sunrays through the leaves of a tree on a warm summer’s morning. In “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” it is like you have entered a solemn wake with Josh pining for someone lost. There is the noir-ish moodiness of “This Is Sally Hatchet” and finally that guitar in his most noticeable song “Hollywood Forever Cemetry Sings” It calls you to attention from the first few strings at the same time slowly meandering through your mind. I was hooked.

I should not have fallen for this album. It just wasn’t me. It was like when you have a certain type of guy or girl you like, your eyes are always locked on to that person in a bar or on the street. Yet at times we all seem to fall for someone who we would never ever thought about. They come out of nowhere and just have something about them that grabs you and before you know it you can’t get enough of them. Fear Fun is that for me. It is stand alone a fantastic album that is wonderfully accessible but that something something I feel for it made it by a long stretch my album of the year. 

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