Under the name J. Tillman, Seattle singer-songwriter Josh Tillman toiled in relative obscurity for years, releasing several discs of languid tunes on boutique labels before signing on to play drums with the Fleet Foxes in 2008. When Tillman left that band last year and headed to Los Angeles, he found a new voice and new identity as Father John Misty. He set himself apart from his bearded indie brethren by transforming into a chameleonic performer; indeed, his Sub Pop debut Fear Fun veers from larger-than-life rockers to honky-tonk two-step to soulful R&B swagger. Still, it's more fun than disjointed; its often-witty wordplay makes the album a departure from Tillman's previously dour lyricism, too.
With nothing more than an acoustic guitar, opener Jessica Pratt captivates on intimate bedroom folk numbers that seem exhumed from decades-old records. That timeless nature lulls listeners into a world away from the present. —Spencer Griffith