rctalk: Fiction Family review; next Fray album

Sean Watkins and Jon Foreman, aka Fiction Family.

Sean Watkins and Jon Foreman, aka Fiction Family.

Review: Fiction Family, Fiction Family

When you’re listening to new music and names like Lennon and McCartney, Difford and Tilbrook, and Neil Finn start rushing to mind, you know you have something good in your earbuds. When you mix that songwriting prowess with the instrumental dexterity of leaders of two of the most accomplished bands currently open for business, you have the first unqualified triumph of our young year.

Fiction Family is the collaboration of Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman, who le blog credited with the best Christian music of 2008 as a solo artist, and Nickel Creek guitarist and singer Sean Watkins. The duo reportedly met at a gig played by their respective bands plus R.E.M. and Wilco, which is to say Fiction Family was born of some great music.

The story is that this album has been in the works since 2006, with Foreman and Watkins exchanging ideas they worked on during their bands’ tour breaks. That means the disc is populated with two lead voices and a wide variety of instrumental ideas, from the sublime acoustic skips of songs such as War in my Blood to a jarring cacophony at the end of Please Don’t Call it Love by a spooky, airy organ. In some ways, this self-titled debut is somewhat reminiscent of The Beatles Revolver album, which combined the sublimeness of Here, There and Everywhere and the arty excursion of She Said She Said.

Christian market fans may be surprised to find little in statements of faith from Foreman. There’s more provocation of thought here, which has always been a hallmark of Switchfoot and Foreman’s solo stuff, in songs such as Look for Me Baby, a little banjo and bass flight that closes the album.

But Fiction Family also seems to be exposing Foreman to new audiences, as the duo is getting played on stations like Lexington adult rock outlet WUKY-FM 91.3 and has shots on NPR music shows such as Mountain Stage and World Cafe.

As much as any effort, Fiction Family seems likely to open a new chapter in Foreman’s career.

New Fray will be released in the Christian market: Beliefnet’s Joanne Brokaw reports The Fray will be releasing its next album to both the mainstream and Christian markets, on Feb. 3. It is a bit of an unorthodox move in the current marketplace, where Christian bands are usually driving toward the mainstream. Though The Fray’s debut, How to Save a Life, was a purely mainstream release, the band did catch many Christian music fan’s ears. In a video with the band’s single, lead singer Isaac Slade reportedly says this is how the group wants to release its music for the remainder of its career.

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