Fiction Family is the brainchild of Switchfoot's Jon Foreman and Nickel Creek's Sean Watkins. It's a peculiar pair, to say the least. But these long time friends have slowly and meticulously created an eclectic sound not barred by mainstream cliches and norms. It is the kind of unlikely union you scratch your head at, and then praise.
The whole thing has an old-school CCM feel to it, paying homage to classic Switchfoot, but with eccentric touches no doubt constructed by Nickel Creek's former guitarist. Though it would be easy to simply say that Fiction Family sounds like what would happen with Switchfoot and Nickel Creek had a kid, the complexity runs deeper. There are touches of Bon Iver along the way, and other ambient acoustical acts. Every track on this self-titled debut is of a completely different construction than the song before it, and each has its own story to tell. From the simple acoustic ballad "Not Sure," about being unable to let go of a lover, to the catchy, fun, ready-for-radio "When She's Near," to the Bon Iver-esque "Elements Combined"... every song has its own feel. It's a welcomed change from the norm. Both men take turns on lead vocals, and while it is apparent that Jon Foreman is the one with the longer career as a singer, Sean Watkins has an enduring quality to his voice that fits very nicely on this project.
We didn't have to wait long for the first great release of 2009. This collaborative effort was on the burner for a long time before it saw the eventual light of day, and it shows. Each song is meticulously crafted, and strikingly different from the eleven other songs on the record. Here's to hoping that "debut album" implies there is much more to come from this most enticing partnership.- Review date: 1/18/09, written by Josh Taylor
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