A collaboration between Nickel Creek guitarist Sean Watkins and Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman, Fiction Family doesn’t stray too far from the radio-friendly, acoustic pop of either singer-songwriter’s previous groups. If their self-titled debut lacks an element of surprise, both Watkins and Foreman know how to write a memorable enough hook and they’ve made some interesting production choices with the rhythm tracks on most of their songs to overcome some of the project’s more pedestrian, Jack Johnson-style trappings. Lead single “When She’s Near,” for instance, doesn’t win points for its lyrics (“When she’s near/The new year’s here/And there’s not a resolution/That I can’t do”) but is redeemed by the duo’s intricate vocal harmonies and an enthusiastic percussion line that recalls ‘60s-era bubblegum pop hits. The ragtime bounce of closer “Look for My Baby” is even more infectious, and the stately chamber-pop arrangement of “Elements Combined” favorably recalls the more adventurous style of Nickel Creek’s swan song Why Should the Fire Die? Slightly atonal with the rest of the project is the even riskier, dissonant, electronic coda to “Please Don’t Call It Love” that makes for a poor approximation of Radiohead. Whether Fiction Family moves forward or remains just a one-off side project, most of the chances that Watkins and Foreman have taken for this record pay off, making for a project that is sure to appeal to their existing fanbases and which stands on its own merits.
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