Music review: Fiction Family

“Reunion” unites old sounds with new ones

by Peter Duell

Fiction Family has a knack for producing retro sound that stays relevant.

Beginning in 2006, Fiction Family was formed by Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman and Sean Watkins of folk band Nickel Creek. Together, the two wrote songs and dabbled in recording before deciding to commit to full time production.

Initially, the two called themselves The Real SeanJon in a joking attempt to receive a lawsuit from Sean Combs. But they changed the name to Fiction Family in March of 2008.

“Usually when two guys make a record together it sounds cool to call them the ‘something’ brothers,” said Watkins in a 2009 story for Michigan Live. “But we’re not, and that’s how the name, Fiction Family came to be.”

Their first and self-titled album released January 2009 and sounds strikingly similar to Watkins’ former group, Nickel Creek, with acoustic melodies and smooth vocals. More of the same followed in their second album titled “Fiction Family Reunion,” which released Jan. 29 this year.

“Reunion” is split down the middle. Some of the songs sound like a few musicians who were famous in past decades. James Taylor comes to mind with the sound of “Never Call” but does so with an updated, less ‘90s sound.

Other songs sound more contemporary. For example, the opening song, “Avalon” sounds almost identical to The Submarines’ 2008 album, “Honeysuckle Weeks.”

The most popular song on the album (according to iTunes), “Up Against The Wall” is mellow and vocal intensive, featuring a trumpet and backup singers. It’s hard not to think of Switchfoot when listening to this song.

Then there are songs such as “Guilt,” which could easily appear on a Counting Crows album.

The music is simple yet covers a broad spectrum of sound despite its indie folk genre badge. “Reunion” is one of those albums you could, say, drive for hours with and easily melt into its songs. Sure, there’s nothing particularly special about it. It won’t win any Grammys or top the charts. It’s exactly what someone would expect: nice music from good musicians, and that’s perfectly fine by me.

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