It’s really challenging not to write a review of Father John Misty’s (ex-drummer of the Fleet-Foxes) debut album Fear Fun as if it was a Dennis Wilson solo record. References to the “Canyon” and “Malibu” certainly evoke his life story. That’s not to say the songs aren’t great. But if he wore his inspirations any more on his sleeves, he would have cufflinks with Charles Manson’s grin on them.
This is a moving-to-Los Angeles record. Not the Los Angeles of Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction, of the Sunset Strip and heroin, lots of jack, Cantor’s in the small hours of the morning, then have a stroke after one too many speedballs. Instead, it’s the soft, hazy Los Angeles of canyons, beaches, and smog-painted sunsets, along with copious amounts of pot, and not a small amount of sadness.
J. Tillman has a voice that is warm, assured while still vulnerable. He surrounds that voice with a fairly spare and quiet accompaniment. While there are pianos, acoustic guitars and percussion, none of them assert themselves very much. Despite all the instrumentation he might as well as be singing a cappella somewhere off Topanga Canyon.