In the age of PONO (I’ll be using the ‘age of ...’ phrase a lot this week, it seems), corporate synergy seems to be taking a backseat to audio quality in the music listening experience. At the very least, Neil Young has tricked us into believing that audio quality should be what matters. We’ll have to see if the boomers buy into it, shelling out for that triangular monument to post-iPod minimalist mindfuckery, and also shelling out for $40 album downloads on the PONO webstore (like honestly, what the hell?). But if we know where old Neil’s cards lay, we also know where new folk troubadour on the block, Mr. Josh Tillman of Father John Misty himself, stands with his new website http://www.fatherjohnmisty.com/sap/, which offers a “Free to Hear” album stream of his new album I Love You, Honeybear. Like many early album streams (and leaks) the sound is extremely low quality; in this case, it’s actually in that audioprimitivist format MIDI, a sonic experience reminiscent of an acid trip in one of the SEGA Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games. The website and the MIDI stream is a work of art, but seriously, the normal album has merit as well. I never cared for J. Tillman’s work in Fleet Foxes, or even his first Father John Misty album, but this record is a brilliant exercise in balancing self-aware shmaltz and even more self-aware (and frequently hilarious) cynicism. In lesser hands, it would elicit an eye roll, but he really pulls off the mix in this album, and it will be resonating for quite some time to come.