TERRY GROSS, host:
Fiction Family is the name taken by two musicians from other bands, Sean Watkins of the progressive blue-grass group Nickel Creek and Jon Foreman of the alternative rock band Switchfoot. The duo began writing songs when their bands were on the same bill of a big rock concert a few years ago. They stayed in touch as their bands toured and eventually recorded this new album, also called "Fiction Family." Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(Soundbite of song "War In My Blood")
FICTION FAMILY: (Singing) Three, four! I've got a girl. She tastes like rain on my tongue. She's got the moon in her hips. And her eyes burn up like the sun.
When I'm gone from my girl. When I leave her alone. There ain't' nothin' that I'm runnin' from.
There's war in my blood. I still got wars to be won...
Mr. KEN TUCKER (Editor-at-large, Entertainment Weekly): That softly sung acoustic tune called "War In My Blood" gives you a good idea of the music on Fiction Family's debut album. Sean Watkins, from Nickel Creek, and Jon Foreman, from Switchfoot, alternate throughout the album on lead vocals and play all the instruments you hear, which include guitar, keyboards, drums, and organ. They compose music with in a built-in ache.
(Soundbite of song "Closer Than You Think")
FICTION FAMILY: (Singing) You've got a vision of some far off day. Beautiful and bright. A caring hanging out of reach. But always in your sight.
There's an icon in your mind. It stands for happiness one day. A picture on some wall. Of a kingdom far away.
Oh, it's closer than you think. Oh, it's breathing in between...
Mr. TUCKER: "There's an icon in your mind that stands for happiness one day," they sing on that song, "Closer Than You Think." Using computer imagery, an earlier generation surely would have said there's a picture in your mind rather than an icon. Fiction Family strives to make simple music rooted in folk and '60s pop without going too limp on us.
Sometimes it doesn't work, as in the maudlin "Please Don't Call It Love," with its weepy, sleepy, violin.
(Soundbite of song "Please Don't Call It Love")
FICTION FAMILY: (Singing) You were indifferent. I was young. We were both drinking fiction. With greedy tongues.
You were waiting for someone. Something to happen. Something irrational. Climbing the walls and falling in love...
Mr. TUCKER: The lyrics on this album aren't particularly original. They consist of carefully phrased examinations of heartbreak for the most part. But Sean Watkins and Jon Foreman are smart enough to know which of their collaborations turned out best. They lead off their album with what is by far their most attractive, memorable song, "When She's Near."
(Soundbite of song "When She's Near")
FICTION FAMILY: (Singing) My cover is blown. I'm fading and dreary. When my love is away. My cover is blown.
When she leaves me alone. I'm weathered and weary. The nights and the days. When my love is away.
When she's near. The New Years here. There is not a resolution. That I can't do.
I see things clearly. When she's near me. When she's near me. All the world is new...
Mr. TUCKER: "When She's Near," with its Beatleseque melody and soft harmonies, is a lovely romantic trifle. It's chorus, "When she's near me, all the worlds new," is the sort of starry-eyed sentiment that Fiction Family's music is ideally suited to transmit. There is, in general, a sort of hippie-dippiness to a lot of this.
As when the duo does that old counter-cultural trick of appropriating even older musical styles in a cute, self-conscience manner, as on this song, "Look For Me Baby."
(Soundbite of song "Look For Me Baby")
FICTION FAMILY: (Singing) When what you hold dear. Starts to disappear. You can tell what you trust. By the things that you fear.
You can look for me baby. Oh, baby, I'll be long gone.
I warned you. You might watch tunes. Free from the ride. It's long been due.
You can look for me, baby. Oh, baby, I'll be long gone...
Mr. TUCKER: Fiction Family has the feeling of a one-time experiment rather than an ongoing project. Perhaps, this is the attitude with which Watkins and Foreman apaproached it. What results most of the time is a sense of freedom and airy lyricism that's never weighed down by the notion that careers or record sales hang in the balance. I'd call this spider web music, delicate, industrious, and intricate. Here today and, perhaps, gone tomorrow.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed the new self-titled debut album from Fiction Family. You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org. I'm Terry Gross.