I have some friends who think they have Father John Misty (a.k.a. Josh Tillman) all figured out before they hear a note of his music. They typically know that he was the drummer for Fleet Foxes and think that, because he has a beard and plays vaguely folkish pop music, he must be part of the same neo-hippie folk revival. Well, while some of those things are true, there are a couple of things that keep Tillman’s music removed from that world. First of all, there are the great chords. Unlike a lot of other current singer-songwriters, Tillman knows exactly when to utilize complex harmonic movement and when to keep to a simple I IV V blues progression. Many likeminded artists might stick to the simple stuff and dress it up with big arrangements, but Tillman is equally comfortable letting his structural material speak for itself or fleshing it out with strings and horns. Basically, the guy knows what suits his songs.
The other big thing that sets Tillman apart is the lyrical content of his song. These are not feel-good songs, guys. Tillman is a master of writing incredibly cynical, darkly comedic lyrics. The music videos for Father John Misty’s songs typically play up the black humor and cynicism beneath even the sunniest of Tillman’s harmonies, and this new video for “Funtimes in Babylon” off 2012’s Fear Fun is no exception. In it, Tillman wanders around what appears to be the wreckage of a crashed airplane in the middle of a suburban community. It’s pretty reminiscent of the whole plane crash storyline in Breaking Bad but with way less meth and way more dance moves. It’s also got a great plot twist at the end.
Oh, and I totally forgot; another thing that sets Tillman apart from many of his folkie peers is that he’s pretty awesomely batshit crazy. For example, the man now has a perfume line appropriately titled “Misty.” The perfume is made by SANAE Intoxicants who have previously collaborated on smells with the likeminded Will Oldham.
You can watch the video for “Funtimes in Babylon” above. Fear Fun is out now on Sub Pop. “Misty” is available for pre-order via SANAE Intoxicants.