Album Review
Fiction Family - Fiction Family Album Cover

Fiction Family - Fiction Family

Reviewed by
Fiction Family - Fiction Family
Record Label: ATO Records
Release Date: January 20, 2009
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
Put two guys in a small room and lots of things can happen. Terms like “cropdusting” or phrases like “I just went from six to midnight” are usually born in these environments. Women become trading cards in the naughty game of life. Pizza is consumed in diabetic doses. Or am I generalizing? Wait, not so fast with the finger pointing. After all, most of the popular duos these days are male-female. There hasn’t been a decent guy-llaboration since Mike Shinoda and Jay-Z’s groundbreaking love-fest Collision Course. (Dun Dun Dun) Until now! Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman and Nickel Creek guitarist Sean Watkins have set out to restore dude love’s lost notoriety with Fiction Family. The resultant self-titled record has plenty of charm despite lacking any “super band” qualities.

Those who became enamored with Foreman’s folky acoustic solo project will eat Fiction Family right up. The record isn’t as bluegrass-oriented as Nickel Creek, but fans of that band would also be remiss to skip this record. There’s a good mixture of styles here, ranging from the piano-rocker “When She’s Near” to the achingly sparse “Throw It Away” to closing knee-slapper “Look For Me Baby.” Somewhat surprisingly, the vocals are mostly handled separately. As far as that goes, it just depends if you prefer the smoothness of Watkins or the rasp of Foreman. “Elements Combined” benefits from Watkins as his vocal melodies add a wonderful counterpart to the slightly eerie instrumentation. Watkins’ songs have a special way of taking you back in time, even if said time is before you were born. “Betrayal” is another subdued track, although Foreman leads the sorrow this time around. Not a shocker due to the name, but it’s not exactly a happy song: “I don’t remember much about that night / But I’m pretty sure it rained the day I died / I think it rained / I’m pretty sure it rained the day I died.” If these guys have anything in common it’s heartbreak.

As much as I enjoy the diversity on Fiction Family, it’s hard to call this a cohesive album. Watkins and Foreman worked on and off for 3 years before completing the record, and as such there isn’t that beginning-middle-end quality we tend to crave in our music. You won’t miss any grand scheme if you put Fiction Family on shuffle. Perhaps if there was more vocal intermingling between the two it would feel more collaborative, but as it is now, this could be two separate EPs packaged together. Foreman’s tearjerker “Please Don’t Call It Love” would benefit greatly from Watkins’ empathetic vocals. Watkins is providing instrumentation, but his involvement feels so limited. (“Mostly” is a good indication of what Watkins’ voice would add to Foreman’s.)

Fiction Family doesn’t sound like a group effort. Each man proves time and time again why he is so revered, but the listener doesn’t feel blown away in the slightest. Logic dictates that two good artists should make one great record. Fiction Family can only muster decent results - I mean, “We Ride” is essentially a The Beautiful Letdown b-side. For future recordings Watkins and Foreman should set aside consecutive days to work on an album. Tour schedules and pre-existing responsibilities make this difficult, but for a record to be collaborative there actually has to be a sense of togetherness.

Recommended If You Like: Jon Foreman's solo career, Sean Watkins' solo career, my solo career?, worship unplugged

Capsize in the meantimewww.myspace.com/fictionfamily
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 40
01:36 AM on 02/16/09
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HometownHero's Avatar
I disagree. I loved this record. Anything Jon Foreman touches turns to gold
02:05 AM on 02/16/09
Jeremy Aaron
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Jeremy Aaron's Avatar
I was kind of looking forward to this, but it ended up being something of a snoozefest for me.
02:31 AM on 02/16/09
Nick Le
Yeezy taught me.
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Nick Le's Avatar
I still haven't heard anything from them...I'll need to check it out.
09:06 AM on 02/16/09
Cool. Cool, cool, cool.
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Jamos4184's Avatar
"Out of Order" is probably the best song on the album (and most upbeat). I was able to catch their show in Philly with Person L and it was probably one of the best shows I've been to. Foreman and Watkins have great stage presence and really play off each other well. The lyrics alone make this better than a 62%.
09:13 AM on 02/16/09
Prison Strength
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hockeyguitar99's Avatar
You're gonna make blindrider529 cry.

Great review though. This album was boring as all hell.
09:18 AM on 02/16/09
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i12punk's Avatar
I disagree. I loved this record. Anything Jon Foreman touches turns to gold
Sean Watkins doesn't need Jon Foreman's help to turn anything to "gold."
09:19 AM on 02/16/09
We never met, you and I
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awakeohsleeper's Avatar
I really like Jon Foreman. Absolutely loved his four EPs.
This is a good review.
09:27 AM on 02/16/09
Blake Solomon
every outcome's such a comedown
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Blake Solomon's Avatar
"Out of Order" is probably the best song on the album (and most upbeat). I was able to catch their show in Philly with Person L and it was probably one of the best shows I've been to. Foreman and Watkins have great stage presence and really play off each other well. The lyrics alone make this better than a 62%.
i think i like "mostly" the most (har har), just because it sounds the most shared between the two men. Don't get me wrong, i like this album. I just wish it sounds on record as cool as it sounded when they announced a collabo record.
09:33 AM on 02/16/09
every shining time you arrive
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topher465's Avatar
62% This isn't a I Set My Friends On Fire record
09:45 AM on 02/16/09
Registered User
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Xianmusicfan's Avatar
I liked this but not as much as Foreman's solo stuff. Watkins made this album a little less enjoyable for me, I mean he's good and all but I love Jon's soft, melancholy style and Watkins is like the exact opposite of that. But this is still a good record, my favorites are Not Sure and War In My Blood (which Foreman has been doing live for a while I think).
09:47 AM on 02/16/09
bears clap loud
Regular Member
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No Avatar Selected
I dunno about a 62% but I'd call it average. It's good but I was hoping more from two very talented musicians. The again I know a few people who say this record is nothing shy of outstanding.
09:57 AM on 02/16/09
Registered User
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joberooni's Avatar
I enjoyed this album, but it didn't blow me away. You're pretty much spot-on with the review Blake. good work.

"worship unplugged"
wtf?! haha
10:05 AM on 02/16/09
makin' good time
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Ryzenfall's Avatar
Jon Foreman's solo material is a lot better than this album. Pretty disappointing. But at least he's got four EPs of songs enough.
10:48 AM on 02/16/09
User since 2002
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No Avatar Selected
i saw them in concert in SF and it was an amazing show. Sarah Watkins was there and she killed too. They did a bunch of sweet covers like "Keep the car running" a radiohead song, and "Pink Triangle" it was sweet.

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