Taking a break from their respective bands, songwriters Jon Foreman (Switchfoot's frontman) and Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek's guitarist) explore the boundaries of acoustic folk-pop with this self-titled debut. The fact that Fiction Family was nearly released by Starbucks says much about the music contained herein, with its emphasis on coffeehouse guitar progressions and wistful melodies. Foreman and Watkins recorded the disc themselves, finding brief moments between tours to trade ideas and build the songs layer by layer. Fiction Family is slightly sprawling as a result, having been compiled over a number of years, but the track list takes strength in diversity as it alternates between sprightly duets and slow, Elliott Smith-styled melancholia. Only on the upbeat numbers do the musicians unleash the full range of their abilities, piling harmonies atop tidy beds of intersecting guitar lines, homespun percussion, and oddball flourishes (a sitar here, a toy piano there). The duo also shines a spotlight on heartbreak, resulting in a string of semi-downtrodden tracks ("Please Don't Call It Love," "Not Sure," "Throw It All Away") that pitch their tents closer to the singer/songwriter camp. Fiction Family generally takes more pages from Nickel Creek's songbook than the Switchfoot catalog, but songs like "Look for Me Baby" -- a zany, Beatles-meets-honky tonk tune that clocks in at 95 seconds -- represent something wholly unique.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey