Tuesday, March 17
Do We Really Need Another Band That Sounds Like Guster? No? Cool.
Artist: Fiction Family
Album: Fiction Family
Comments: Fiction Family, the collaboration between Switchfoot lead singer Jon Foreman and Nickle Creek guitarist Sean Watkins, is a classic example of a band that can do one thing (and only one thing) well. The group's self-titled debut album is awash with soft-spoken, gently strummed acoustic ballads that aim to couple nicely with Foreman's earnest prose and sincere delivery. Their familiar brand of emoting can be charming on individual tracks, but stretched out over the course of an album their one trick loses steam quickly.
Fiction Family is pleasant to a fault. The album utilizes a formula that hinges on Watkin's new-folk instrumentation and Foreman's coffee house croon with the aim of delivering both lyrical and musical charm. While this formula works in small bits (“Betrayal,” “When She's Near”), the album quickly blends into cliché on both fronts, reducing the record to little more than a pile of overused chords and horse-whipped sentiments about love.
Nickel Creek die-hards will no doubt hear Watkin's touch all over the album in the form of sitars, pianos, and violins melded into his folk arrangements, and while there are some nice structures to be found, lyrics like “You spend your life inside a box looking through stained glass / And dream about a better day and hope it finds you fast” quickly obliterate any musical goodwill.
The record is such a slave to its familiar routine that any slight break from the mold (like the catchy, loopy “Out of Order”) stands as a titanic success in the face of such willful, agreeable mediocrity.
For a certain group of people, the people who watch Garden State once a month, who can't forget the first time they ever heard Guster, whose play lists are riddled with acoustic singer-songwriters wailing about emotional gambits with the opposite sex, Fiction Family's self titled debut will likely be the album of the year. For the rest of the world, however, Fiction Family is nothing more than a bland collection of pleasant soft-pop, good for high school mix tapes, background music, open mic nights, and little else.
Key Tracks: Out of Order, Betrayal
Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip