After recording the eighth album, Singing Ax, under his own name, Josh Tillman was ready to make a change going forward. Tillman had this to say about his decision:
“I remember specifically finishing Year in the Kingdom and then beginning to work on what would become Singing Ax, and I clearly knew Singing Ax was going to be the last “J. Tillman” record ever because I just didn’t want to do it anymore.”
Kid Cudi reached out to him, having heard his new album, and invited him work on a 2013 album, Indicud.
The first album under the name Father John Misty, Fear Fun, was also the first of Josh Tillman’s albums to hit the Billboard 200, peaking at 123. Along with the name, his sound also grew and developed greatly. He admits that he never got the reaction from the crowd that he wanted until he started being himself.
Part of this album feels like him letting out all the jokes and quirky lyrics he always wanted to sing, which makes Fear Fun a special album. The song “I’m Writing a Novel” tells a story about getting too high on hallucinogenic Mushrooms. One could definitely write this song off as a joke, but who said music needs to be serious?
Some of the songs feel more blues rock in tone and instrumentals, which Tillman’s voice adds excellently to. Still, his voice sounds fit for a gospel sound, like in “Nancy From Now On” and “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me”. The latter I feel builds excellently into his future work as Father John.
The B-side on this record feels more rock-like than usual, and I would describe it like the Decemberists adapted rock sound mixed with folk. “Well, You Can Do It Without Me” is the best of these, with the best instrumentals on the whole album.
The best track on here is in about the same spot as “Young Blood” on last week’s review. “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” is the most gospel song on here, and his voice fits the lyrics so well. I enjoy how he sort of breaks the fourth wall by talking about the struggles of producing a record. I’m not sure what this war is, but the rest of the lyrics fit together into one cohesive record.
You have to love the attention payed to this record. Included with the large fold-out lyric sheet is a copy of an Email sent to a game developer for a concept game. The inner fold includes a distorted American flag so beautiful I want it bigger to hang on my wall. Though not double LP, it is included in a gatefold, which is good news for all the papers included on this one.