- Thursday, January 01, 2009
- When She's Near
- Out of Order
- Not Sure
- Elements Combined
- War in My Blood
- Throw It Away
- Closer than You Think
- Please Don't Call It Love
- Mostly Prove Me Wrong
- We Ride
- Look for Me Baby
It's been over two years since the last original Switchfoot album, Oh! Gravity, and it'll probably be close to three before the next one releases. But Jon Foreman has kept the fans satisfied by keeping busy himself, releasing a slew of solo material over the course of 2008.
If that wasn't enough, the accomplished singer/songwriter forged an unlikely partnership with his friend Sean Watkins of progressive folk/country/rock band Nickel Creek (currently on hiatus as the three members pursue individual projects). The two artists have been acquainted since high school in San Diego, and gradually developed a friendship from sharing the stage with their respective bands over the years. In time, they decided to try writing together, and what began as a song or two on the side developed into a full-fledged album, recorded at home during spare time whenever the bands weren't touring (so yes, it took a while).
The resulting fruits of their labor are represented here as a side project and collaboration that the two have christened Fiction Family. Listeners are bound to have preconceptions and expectations with an album like this, so let's clarify its intended sound and scope.
First off, do not expect Switchfoot-meets-Nickel-Creek. While that would certainly be an interesting blend of modern rock and alt-country—exhibit A: Switchfoot's "Dirty Second Hands," exhibit B: Nickel Creek's "Best of Luck"—Foreman and Watkins see this project as an opportunity for collaboration and creativity outside of what is expected from them. Thus, the music here sounds more similar to their respective solo projects, only more experimental.
Don't come looking for much in the way of spiritual depth either. Neither Foreman nor Watkins believes in the lyrical constraints of Christian music and appealing to a particular audience with their lyricism. The majority of the songs are poetic depictions of relationships—some auto-biographical about love and break-up, others fabricated.
That said, there are certainly hints of Christian beliefs to be found. It'd be interesting to know how most interpret that "magic book" referenced in "Throw It Away," containing the so-called magic words, "Give your love, live your life each and every day." Later in the album, "Closer than You Think" encourages us to hold close to the vision of heaven that encourage us and compels us to press on: "You've got a vision of some far off day, beautiful and bright/A carrot out of reach, but always in your sight/There's an icon in your mind that stands for happiness someday/A picture on the wall of a kingdom far away/But oh, it's closer than you think/Oh, it's breathing in between."
Musically, the album does struggle in fits and starts. A fair stretch of the album is very mellow and folk sounding, and it begins to wear after a while, neither as melodic nor as memorable as the solo work by Foreman or Watkins. Then the album nearly derails with the more experimental folk of "Please Don't Call It Love." Its melody is rich, almost classical sounding, but it meanders in melancholy, accompanied by an uncharacteristically screechy fiddle by Sara Watkins (Sean's sister from Nickel Creek)—I blame the context of the arrangement, not her talent—before finishing with a very cacophonous coda. "We Ride" suffers from similar self-indulgence, overloading the song with so much reverb, it becomes almost indecipherable with its messy echoes.
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