Fear Fun is Father John Misty’s Sub Pop debut and was produced by Phil Ek. Although touted as a debut Father John Misty has been in the industry many years, going by his given name of Josh Tillman. Tillman decided to change his old stage name of J. Tillman to the interesting title of Father John Misty. He moved from Seattle to L.A., and announced his exit from his old band, the hugely successful Fleet Foxes, a bold gamble given the popularity of The Fleet Foxes and indeed his own solo work. Tillman has been recording and releasing solo albums since 2003, admitting that the albums were a result of an “immobilizing period of depression” Tillman claims song writing has always been “interesting and necessary because he saw it as this vehicle for truth”, but ultimately he decided “that all he had really done with it was lick his wounds for years and years, and become more and more isolated from people and experiences, never putting any risk into his music.” It was with this realization that he decided to branch out from his comfort zone and so Father John Misty came into being. Fear Fun is a record that finds euphoria in melancholy, celebrating the hassles in life and re-examining just what happiness is.
His haunting voice immediately puts Tillman ahead of his contemporaries. Fear fun opens with the lovely Fun Times in Babylon. A catchy song, most memorable for Tillman’s deep and affecting delivery, framed by mandolins and piano. The whole album has a ‘All Things Must Pass’-era George Harrison feel about it. The Beatles influence can also be felt heavily on the orchestral and poignant track ‘This Is Sally Hatchet’. ‘I’m Writing a Novel’ is the perfect indie chill out anthem whilst ‘Well, You Can Do It Without Me’ is a witty retro country sounding number catchy whistling and hand clapping included. Sometimes the album loses its footing and comes across as just filler, case in point ‘Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2’. But he pulls it back with classic numbers such as the reverb-heavy faux-rock and roll ‘Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings’ and gospel choir-esque ‘O I Long To Feel Your Arms Around Me’
Throughout Fear fun Tillman does a great job of balancing serious topics with a tongue-in-cheek view. He manages to cover everything from the superficiality of cosmetic surgery right down to the presence of death in life. After listening to Fear Fun, I am genuinely excited to see what Tillman comes up with next. He has really re invented himself into something new and exciting. The album has quickly become one of my favourite releases of the year. It has a song for every mood and it’s easy to get lost within its melancholy and sometimes strange lyrics and haunting vocals. It looks like this is one risk that definitely paid off.