There are many ways to be an asshole with an acoustic guitar: cover “Wonderwall,” for example, or play Dave Matthews. The democratization of music consumption (once, you had to be nobility to hear Mozart) mirrors, I think, the decline of earnest musical talent (see: your Spotify Free usage and the number of milquetoast Coldplay wannabees dotting your Facebook newsfeed). The advent of audio recording meant you no longer had to read sheet music in order to experience Gilbert and Sullivan—but can we call this a happy development if it culminates in Iggy Azalea?

The asshole-with-guitar rarely means to be such a thing. He picked up the instrument either to accommodate for his lack of personality or to lyricize sentiments best left in his diary, yet we heap on him derision rather than pity. Why? Because the storied history of the singer-songwriter progresses from sincere to sweet to sentimental to saccharine. Singer-songwriter as a quote-unquote genre has already had its wunderkind beat poet protestor (Bob Dylan), its self-loathing and conflicted sneerer (also Dylan), its Brill Building cinematic sell-out (Burt Bacharach), its soft-rock schmaltz establishment crooner (James Taylor), its alcoholic roustabout raconteur (Tom Waits), its whimsical psychedelic druggie (Harry Nilsson), and its fuck-it-I’ll-play-harpsichord virtuoso (Van Dyke Parks). Which is all to say: it’s tough being a white guy in show biz these days. A six-string and a broken heart don’t get you as far as they once did.

Maybe the singer-songwriter of today has been reduced to your annoying acoustic first-year floormate, but it wasn’t always so. Let’s remember that before he turned us all into hanky-soaked nostalgists with “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” Randy Newman was an acerbic pianist. Instead of sentiment, he laced his songs with scathing satire. His song “Rednecks,” for instance, sends up the trope of the titular southerners who “can’t tell [their] ass from a hole in ground” while damning white northerners for their hypocrisy and complicity in systemic racism. Far from the middle-of-the-road emoting of Ed Sheeran, Hozier, and your cousin whose cover of “Fearless” was retweeted by Taylor Swift, Randy Newman had edge. Who will deliver us from Sam Smith in 2015?

Enter Josh Tillman, alias Father John Misty, asshole-with-guitar, but not the kind who only knows the chorus to “Wagon Wheel.” Under an abbreviated name, he used to perform mopey folk music, the kind of “sensitive lumberjack” tunes that made Bon Iver famous. After a stint with Fleet Foxes, a band that injected emotional highs into listeners straight through a catheter of pastoralism and four-part harmony, he abandoned white-male melancholia. I remember his Facebook post from the Fleet Foxes page declaring, “into the gaping maw of obscurity I go.”

You know what they say: if you can’t beat ’em, caricature ’em. Tillman’s new project, Father John Misty, is the Adult Swim version of Bon Iver, a Newman-esque satire of the possibility of a singer-songwriter in 2015. He even has his own (anti-)origin story: depressed dude fails at music industry, takes psychedelics, internalizes life’s nihilism, and transforms into shamanic and cynical asshole-with-guitar who knows he’s the asshole-with-guitar. Tillman is the kind of asshole who would laugh at the kid trying to lead the entire camp in a sing-a-long of “Skinny Love,” and then sleep with his mother. Bon Iver sings about losing love and innocence alike; Tillman thinks you can recapture the former with his specialty perfume called   “‘Innocence’ by Misty” (it goes for $75.00 on his website).

The funniest part of the Father John Misty joke, then, isn’t the absurdity of a singer-songwriter releasing an album of love songs in 2015—although “I Love You, Honeybear” is full of self-referential asides suggesting Tillman is as bored with singer-songwriters as the rest of us. No, the punch line is that the Father John shaman character isn’t really a character at all. Tillman really is just that bitter, scathing, outrageous, hilarious, and at times, brilliant. He was faking it while drumming for Fleet Foxes, champions of sincerity. Maybe it’s the difference between Tinseltown and Medford, Wisconsin, but Tillman’s only himself when he lets his asshole-with-guitar run free.

“I Love You, Honeybear” plays with performance. The title is tongue in cheek, but only because Tillman knows what it’s like to have been chewed up and spit back out, both by love and by commercial failure. “Save me white Jesus,” he sings over canned laughter on “Bored In The USA,” clearly expecting no salvation from either the Lord or the Boss. Tillman even leaked a version of his album early, with his voice and instrumentation compressed into Super Mario Bros.-style blockiness.

Despite such ironic affectations, there’s a brutal honesty to these songs, which document Tillman’s neuroses, sins, and lexicon. Addressing his honeybear:“I’ve brought my mother’s depression / You’ve got your father’s scorn and a wayward aunt’s schizophrenia.” Addressing a judgmental hookup who “hoovers all [his] drugs”: “She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes / And the malaprops makes me want to fucking scream.” The album is an account of how he met his wife, and surely Tillman makes a loving if troubled husband but the misogynistic womanizer in him is never wholly disowned. That’s the point, though. Tillman is through with hiding, even his nastiest characteristics.

Father John Misty is too clever for his own good—that sharp tongue is bound to puncture his cheek—but he never backs away from who he is, which is a giant asshole with a mariachi guitar. He’s a jerk whose honesty is almost lovable. By serenading us with snark couched in sentiment wrapped up in equal parts schmaltz and cynicism, he delivers this truth to a dying industry: sometimes, it takes sarcasm to be sincere.