As J. Tillman, indie folk crooner Joshua Tillman painted sparse, often melancholic fever dreams that paired the wounded isolation of Nick Drake with the star-crossed country romanticism of Gram Parsons, a sensibility he also brought to the table as the drummer and backing vocalist for Seattle's Fleet Foxes. His latest incarnation, Father John Misty, adds Harry Nilsson and Skip Spence to the mix, skillfully imbuing the woodsy Pacific Northwest bark of the Foxes with a patina of vintage Laurel Canyon-inspired bohemia. Fear Fun opens with "Funtimes in Babylon," one of three tracks, including "Only Son of the Ladiesman" and "Everyman Needs a Companion," closely echoing the hymnlike sonic breadth of his former band. All three cater to his strong, clear voice, which sounds like a cross between Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon) and Jonathan Meiburg (Shearwater/Okkervil River), but it's tracks two and three that provide the album with its most transcendent moments. "Nancy from Now On," with its shambling protagonist ("Pour me another drink and punch me in the face"), likable gait, and legitimate yacht rock chorus, is a triumph of both style and substance, while the thick and brooding "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," which ceaselessly wonders "Jesus Christ girl/What are people going to think?" amidst a wall of wet distortion and appropriately thunderous drums, benefits from singer/songwriter/Laurel Canyon scene revivalist Jonathan Wilson's warm and spacious production. Fear Fun's deft mix of folly and grandeur strikes a nice balance between the over the top hippie shenanigans of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and the vapid, calculated debauchery of Lana Del Ray, painting the artist as a self-destructive/deprecating Californian gadfly with one foot in the Salton Sea and the other in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger