“Jesus Christ, girl.” At only three words into “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings“, the lead single off Fear Fun by Josh Tillman’s new project Father John Misty, it’s clear there’s something special happening. The reverb and strung-out-sunset hollowness crashing against Tillman’s vocal turns is like a car wreck – you can’t turn yourself away from what’s going on.
Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes, has a gorgeous voice. While he’s technically sound, it’s the charisma and humor creeping at the corners that pushes it to another level. The religious/cult leader implications of the Father John Misty moniker (“Joseph Campbell and The Rolling Stones / couldn’t give me a myth / so I had to write my own”) are apt; in person Tillman is handsome and witty but approachable, and both live and on record could sing the phone book and make it the most compelling thing happening in the room. You’ll happily follow him wherever he may go, and he goes everywhere.
“O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” is pretty and hymn-like; the man has an ear for the spirit. Lofty, too, is the apex of “Only Son of the Ladiesman”. “Teepees 1-12” is a country shaker, complete with fiddle dance hall swing. FJM brings to mind The Beatles a couple of times on the album, both with “This Is Sally Hatchet” and “I’m Writing a Novel” (which is a cross between “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by The Monkees and “The Ballad of John and Yoko” – a move that seems intentional based on the song’s lyrics). In general Tillman nods to the past but makes it sound new, a dusted-off find from deep in the vault and not some lame apery.
Every track on the record is solid, a rare find in a singles-driven industry. Unsurprising, though, considering “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” is a contender for favorite song of 2012. Fear Fun is an instant classic, prime for those sunny summer mornings and lazy front porch afternoons.