Singer-songwriter Josh Tillman debuted “Bored in the U.S.A.” — a highlight of his ornate second LP as Father John Misty — on Letterman with a Celine Dion-worthy string orchestra, a wayward laugh track and prankster soulfulness. “Save me, white Jesus. . . . /They gave me a useless education/And a subprime loan on a Craftsman home,” he crooned, with acuity even Springsteen might admire, along with any fan of heartbroken-wiseguy songcraft.
Upping the spectacle from Fear Fun, his 2012 debut, I Love You, Honeybear is an autobiographical set about love, marriage and derangement that’s both ironic and empathic — an approach connecting him less to his previous band, Fleet Foxes, than to the SoCal tradition of Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and Beck. Shaped by folk-rock swami Jonathan Wilson, the details bring it home: the corny poignancy of mariachi horns and strings on “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” a cage match with sentimentality; the scalding guitar on “The Ideal Husband,” a lover’s panic attack. Yes, dude’s funny. But the “jokes” are on everyone. “No one ever knows the real you/And life is brief,” he sings on “Holy Shit.” It’s too fucking true. But he makes you feel better about it.