Josh Tillman is most widely known for his recent almost four-year stint as the drummer for Seattle's indie folk darlings Fleet Foxes. He has released seven solo albums as J. Tillman, which up to this point, have been gently introspective and marked by darkness and internal struggle.
As Father John Misty, Tillman approaches these latter themes anew, sometimes slipping into mocking playfulness that brings The Joker (Batman, not Steve Miller ... though, perhaps a little of both) to mind.
Tillman's Misty moniker has been in the making for a while via his Twitter and Tumblr accounts. On Fear Fun, his pretty voice is still there but he's finding the edges of it, letting it tire and crack. It could be the cigarettes taking their toll, but his tone seems to have changed, moving from a searching and broken J. Tillman to an angry and defiant Father John Misty. You can almost hear the bad taste in his mouth.
Traces of earlier J. Tillman and Fleet Foxes are present in songs like "Only Son of the Ladies' Man" and "O' I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me," but these influences don't overtake the album. Fear Fun isn't just a folky, harmony-driven side project, it vacillates between several different styles. And this, at times, makes the whole feel a bit confused, like an island for lost songs. But once you give up trying to justify Tillman's musical meanderings and moments of forced pretension--particularly in the song "I'm Writing A Novel"--you'll start to really enjoy it.
The first track released from Fear Fun, "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," was introduced in the form of a beautifully shot--albeit rather disturbing--music video. The song's catchy but abrupt lyrical content, including the repetition of the line "Jesus Christ, girl," makes it difficult to forget. It's one of the album's strongest moments and it transports listeners to an emotional state that is both raw and out of control. The song is reason enough to keep listening.