Steve J. Moore

Spider Music and Sad Stories

In Music, poetry, Radio on January 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm

 Chris ThileSara Watkins, and Sean Watkins started making music together before they were old enough to drive. With violins, a mandolin, a guitar, and sirenesque voices they made five albums just this side of inspired. They took me in and introduced me to folk music as a genre; told me stories about foxes catching their dinner, lighthouses concerned with love, and little birds leaving the nest. Their sound was so rich in emotion, so authentically human, I couldn’t get enough. Why Should the Fire Die  was their most mature, and final album. We were invited continually into their lives through allegory and heard about their hard luck, their heartbreak , and their crises of faith. Then, in 2007, something very sad happened. The band Nickel Creek parted ways after over twenty years of making music together. 


Chris Thile had already made a career on the side as a virtuoso mandolinist even while Nickel Creek was touring and recording. He joined up with a few other neoclassical bluegrass-heads and formed The Punch Brothers. They continue to churn out overpaced octaves and twinkling tiny tunes today along with giving Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer a run for their money.



Sean Watkins took a little more time off. It wasn’t until he met up with former Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman that he got back to work. Together, the two formed Fiction Family. Not the team-up I would have suspected. I hadn’t really even heard Switchfoot since “Dare You to Move” back in 2004. NPR’s Ken Tucker gave the review that introdced me to the Family. He called their work, “spider-web music — delicate, industrious and intricate. Here today and, perhaps, gone tomorrow.” After listening to their work, I couldn’t think of a better fitting description. There are glimmers of beauty like dew drops in the sun, less filled-in areas that leave its makers vulnerable, and awkard stretching strands to some far-away branches. 




  1. “When She’s Near” – 2:55
  2. “Out Of Order” – 3:31
  3. “Not Sure” – 3:06
  4. “Betrayal” – 3:03
  5. “Elements Combined” – 3:38
  6. “War In My Blood” – 2:57
  7. “Throw It Away” – 4:14
  8. “Closer Than You Think” – 3:12
  9. “Please Don’t Call It Love” – 5:11
  10. “Mostly Prove Me Wrong” – 3:02
  11. “We Ride” – 3:18
  12. “Look For Me Baby” – 1:35



When you listen to this album you will hear the simplistic elements of Switchfoot’s New Way to be Human, but infused with the poetic wonderings of songs like Nickel Creek’s When in Rome. Especially on “Elements Combined,” we get a true marriage of styles. You hear the high-strung mandolin’s plea against Foreman’s tin-can voice singing “some day you’ll be mine.”  Other tracks like “Throw it Away” introduce us to the slow contemplation of a man drinking wine alone–the image of a closed book in the corner. This folornness is whispy like the spider web too, because it is easily wiped away by the very next track, “Closer Than You Think.” 


I can’t decide if I like it as a whole. At times it’s “Scotch and Chocolate” and at times it’s alt-rock in a church I heard in 9th grade. It builds its pace up, slows down, shows you a delicate flower in the road, then spends the next fifty miles mourning its loss to the wind. There are songs I’d very much like to come on the radio at random to lift my spirits, maybe to help me appreciate a sunset or to help me find my way home. “We Ride” has a sound of that sort. Ambiant and ambling, the ticking clock of the stringed instruments tumbles forward clumsily into slow drum breaks and a lyric solo.


Sometimes I get very tired of hearing Switchfoot’s laothesome signature ding ding ding ding… circus chime xylophone in the background (you know what I mean), but generally this album stands out as one of the more interesting trials I’ve heard this year. I leave you with their first track, and first single, “When She’s Near.”


  1. I never would have seen this coming.

  2. Neither did I! I was just in the car listening to NPR and on it came…

  3. Steve–using your blog since I couldn’t find an email–you can just delete this comment–send me your email and I will send you a quick list of twitter folks.

    Also, I think for what you are looking Plurk might be a great option. It is a bit more conversational and I find that sending out a question like “my school needs to see the benefits that the web can offer even with only the tech we have now, a few labs not PCs in every room…give me some ideas!” Would result in many responses. Twitter is great for sharing resources, but Plurk is where I go when I need a creative idea, feedback, or an answer to a question that will tend to be more conversational than 140 characters and out.

    Actually, let me try a cut and paste here of twitter folks:
    Kelly Hines kellyhines / Kelly Hines
    following You are following kellyhines

    kernkelley kernkelley
    following You are following kernkelley

    lthumann / Lisa Thumann
    following You are following lthumann

    Sue Wyatt tasteach / Sue Wyatt
    following You are following tasteach

    Jess McCulloch jessmcculloch / Jess McCulloch
    following You are following jessmcculloch

    following You are following mrkimmi

    murcha murcha
    following You are following murcha

    ELanghorst ELanghorst

    cereseg / Cerese Godfrey

    Peggy Sheehy PeggySheehy / Peggy Sheehy

    The Bonus Point Band thebpb / The Bonus Point Band
    Doesn’t tweet alot, but Ashley does a lot of neat stuff

    dancallahan / Dan Callahan

    jkrauss jkrauss

    Mathew Needleman mrneedleman / Mathew Needleman

    Ginger Lewman GingerTPLC / Ginger Lewman
    She rules

  4. Thanks for posting the Switchfoot video. Like others who have commented before me, I am surprised by the new style.

    I love the blog. Look forward to reading you again.

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