Old San Diego schoolmates Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot renown) and Sean Watkins (guitar hero from Nickel Creek) turn their first joint effort into more than a casual side project. Fiction Family allows these two gifted singer/songwriters to follow their more esoteric instincts and challenge their fans’ expectations. There are several gorgeous pop-rock tunes here, with the smile-inducing “When She’s Near” and the murky yet shimmering “Out of Order” taking top honors. Much of the album, though, is given over to more subdued introspective pieces. Tunes like “Throw It Away,” “Betrayal,” and “Mostly Prove Me Wrong” are melancholy folk numbers in the tradition of Bert Jansch and Iron & Wine. “Not Sure” kicks things into country-rock territory, while “Closer Than You Think” betrays a hint of modern bluegrass. Just when clouds of gloom seem to settle over the tracks, Foreman and Watkins offer a jolt of zaniness with “Look for Me Baby.” At its best, Fiction Family reflects a synergy between Jon and Sean’s contrasting but complimentary talents; these guys should get together more often.