Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Album Review: Fiction Family

About a week ago I posted about the upcoming album from Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Sean Watkins (formerly) of Nickel Creek. The album came out yesterday and is available to download on iTunes,, or on the pair's website.

I have to admit that I was sucked into buying this album through a very clever marketing scheme. I was actually doing homework for my book marketing & promotion class, which was to write about positive experiences we'd had with marketing. While I was pondering what to write about, I logged on to Facebook and noticed an ad on the right side of the page. It mentioned two bands I enjoy, so I clicked through to find out more, downloaded the free track (still available here), told some friends, and just payed $11.99 for the full CD. Clever marketing sure does work.

So far, I am extremely pleased with the album. As I may have mentioned before, the album was pieced together bit by bit in between busy tour schedules. The combination of this and the diverse genres of music Foreman and Watkins hail from gives the album a patchwork feel. The album is really quite eclectic--at times it feels like what Nickel Creek would sound like if Foreman became its lead singer (not something I'm at all advocating, by the way), tracks like "War in My Blood" are heavy on the bluegrass and feature Foreman's unique vocals over Watkins' skillful guitar work; "Throw it Away" begins as a moody, acoustic number ala Elliott Smith or Radiohead and then gets spiced up by a surprising sitar; and while "Closer Than You Think" may come closer at times to the rock/pop numbers Switchfoot fans may expect, the harmonica and the blending of Foreman's and Watkins' vocals make it something new altogether. Ultimately, while comparisons can be drawn between these artists' work with their well-known bands, Fiction Family is more experimental than it will be familiar to fans of either band.

The standard version of the album has 12 tracks and is $9.99 on iTunes. There is also a deluxe version which is $11.99 and includes three bonus tracks (including a cover of the Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" and another sitar-influenced track which rocks harder than most of the album, "Resurrect Me.")

Fave tracks: "Out of Order," "Not Sure," and "Look For Me Baby."
RIYL: Wilco, Switchfoot, Nickel Creek, Jon Foreman, Sean Watkins, Bob Dylan, or experimental alt-country-folk-rock.


Kyle said...

Call me a noob, but I'd never seen RIYL before and had to look it up on Google. I think I'll use that from now on though, very clever. So my question is, if I haven't really listened to Nickel Creek before and am lukewarm about Switchfoot, should I start here or somewhere else? Any other Nickel Creek I should start with? Have I asked you this before Katie? I feel this strange sense of deja vu...

Katie said...

Haha, well, if it makes you feel better, I've never heard the term "noob." I've been meaning to RIYL other album reviews but always forgot until now.

If you want to experience Nickel Creek, then this isn't really the album to get started with. The awesome thing about Nickel Creek is the amazing collaboration between Sean and Sara Watkins and Chris Thile (the main vocalist and amazing mandolin player). Though Fiction Family does have a bluegrass feel, it is very different from Nickel Creek's stuff. (And, yes, we may have had this conversation before...).

Nickel Creek tracks I'd recommend to give you your first taste: "The Lighthouse's Tale," "When You Come Back Down," "Should've Known Better," "When in Rome," "Scotch & Chocolate," and "Doubting Thomas." Granted, it's really hard for me to pick favorites (they are one of my fave bands), but I think that's an eclectic sample to get you started and see whether or not they're for you.

Peter Burke said...

RIYL, that's a good one. I'm apparently a "noob" too.

Hey guys, I had a gift card to Circuit City and I picked up Kanye West's new album 808s & Heartbreak. I've listened to it once all the way though and so far...boring! The album as a whole is far from catchy and to a half-hearted Kanye fan that is no good. Have either of you listened to it?

Kyle said...

I haven't heard it. Sounds like I can miss it? I never really got into Kayne West.

And Katie, I'll check out those Nickel Creek songs and get back to you.

Katie said...

Peter, I haven't listened to Kanye's new album either. I have to admit I'm probably even less than a half-hearted Kanye fan (I really like "Hey Mama" from Late Registration but never really got into much else), but I am surprised to hear that his newest album is boring. I thought Kanye was known for being pretty creative & groundbreaking & whatnot. I did see him perform the new single, "Love Lockdown" on tv, and it definitely looked like he was lip synching... Sorry about your buyer's remorse!

Kyle, sounds good! If you can't find any of them to listen to free online, I'll be happy to send you some.