Taking a break from their respective bands, songwriters Jon Foreman (Switchfoot's frontman) and Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek's guitarist) explore the boundaries of acoustic folk-pop with this self-titled debut. The fact that Fiction Family was nearly released by Starbucks says much about the music contained herein, with its emphasis on coffeehouse guitar progressions and wistful melodies. Foreman and Watkins recorded the disc themselves, finding brief moments between tours to trade ideas and build the songs layer by layer. Fiction Family is slightly sprawling as a result, having been compiled over a number of years, but the track list takes strength in diversity as it alternates between sprightly duets and slow, Elliott Smith-styled melancholia. Only on the upbeat numbers do the musicians unleash the full range of their abilities, piling harmonies atop tidy beds of intersecting guitar lines, homespun percussion, and oddball flourishes (a sitar here, a toy piano there). The duo also shines a spotlight on heartbreak, resulting in a string of semi-downtrodden tracks ("Please Don't Call It Love," "Not Sure," "Throw It All Away") that pitch their tents closer to the singer/songwriter camp. Fiction Family generally takes more pages from Nickel Creek's songbook than the Switchfoot catalog, but songs like "Look for Me Baby" -- a zany, Beatles-meets-honky tonk tune that clocks in at 95 seconds -- represent something wholly unique.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Two veterans of the music industry (Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek) made this album in their free time, without any pressure from labels or studios, and it shows. At times Fiction Family's album feels experimental (part of the fun), but it works on the whole. There are some real gems on this album, such as 'When She's Near' and 'War in my Blood.' After 'When She's Near,' Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins take turns doing songs which feel and sound like their respective solo projects, but the songs on the last half of the album have an entirely new, collaborative sound. On the 'solo' tunes, Sean Watkins does and admirable job adding depth and intricacies to Jon Foreman's tunes, and Jon seems to bring out an intensity from Sean that I've never heard from him before. It works. All that said, I picked up the album about a week before Fiction Family came through my town, so that I could familiarize myself with the songs. Their live show was exponentially better than the album! By the time they got to Portland, the band had developed a chemistry and stage presence that enhanced the songs and made the whole experience an impressive one. If they ever do another tour, don't miss their show! Jon Foreman has been putting out some truly outstanding music over the past year and a half. On the album and at the show, it is obvious that he loves playing these songs.