i’ve got smoke in my lungs and a past life in my trunk

“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.

Fear Fun dropped 05.01.12.
Click to download “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” and “Nancy From Now On“.

the bluebird as she sings

I am legitimately saddened by the passing of Davy Jones. When I was little I watched The Monkees TV show every day. The credits still make me giggle. Davy Jones’s charm was a huge part of it. Who wouldn’t love a sweet Englishman singing the catchiest songs? I’ve led a semi-charmed life in the sense that I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of my idols, and Davy Jones was the first of them.

When I was in seventh grade, my family went to Arizona visit some relatives and drive to Disneyland. We flew back home out of Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. While waiting in line at the ticket counter to check in, I noticed a man about my height (5’4″ – average for a 13-year-old girl, not so much for an adult male). When he looked to his right, my heart skipped a beat.

“Mom! Mom!,” I whispered, “I think that’s Davy Jones!”
“What? No, I doubt that’s him.”
“I’m pretty sure it is.”
“What would he be doing in Phoenix? I don’t think so.”

Then the short man a few people ahead of us started singing. It was definitely him. Too afraid to approach him, I made my mom go ask to be sure. Davy couldn’t have been nicer. He seemed excited that someone my age was 1) aware of who he was and 2) was a big enough fan to recognize him in an airport and send her mother to go talk to him. While we waited, Davy told us stories about his touring days, proudly sharing that The Monkees had toured with Jimi Hendrix – with Hendrix as the opener. Amazing.

While I never had a proper crush on Davy Jones, I did have an affinity for him. His goofiness, his dancing, and the fact that he was so nice to some kid bugging him at the airport while he was trying to enjoy his vacation have forever endeared me. I’m glad to have known him, if only for a few moments.