Thanks to my amazing twin Courtney for whipping up this confection of a review!
Four years after their debut album, indie folk group Fiction Family returns with a new studio venture and a new label. Lead singer Jon Foreman (Switchfoot) and guitarist Sean Watkins (Nickel Creek) deliver a dynamic record, with the befitting title Fiction Family Reunion, featuring a hybrid indie pop, country folk sound married with Cali surfer vocals.
Opening track “Avelon” kicks things off with a swaying psych-pop composition evoking Pet Sounds era Beach Boys. The record’s fourth track, “Give Me Back My Girl,” takes a breather from the principal sonic theme, providing a radio-friendly jaunt that will bring Foreman’s work with Switchfoot to mind.
The major turning point of Fiction Family Reunion is the straight-forward yet powerful “God Badge”. A serene, mellow lullaby that gradually adds orchestral strings near the end to drive home the song’s poignant lyrical content.
From “God Badge,” subsequent songs are the choice picks of Reunion. The eighth track, “Just Rob Me,” is a fun talking blues love story, with banjo-strumming and a bouncy country beat. Perhaps the piece with the most entertaining lyrics, “Just Rob Me” features gems like “my outlaw gave me in-laws.” Following that, “Reality Calls” juxtaposes a breezy and carefree tune (whistling included!) to the musings about a fling the singer wishes would grow into something more.
Fiction Family’s sophomore project is a solid work of songwriting. Paired with refined instrumentals, Fiction Family Reunion has broad appeal, for fans of folks to Switchfoot die-hards. This album is a delectable sampler of 21st century indie. It drops on the 29th of this month.
Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP
Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.
Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.
Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.
Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.
Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.
The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.
Muse “Drones” Review
Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”
Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.
Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”
Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.
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