Charting the Deep Waters| Posted September 09, 2014
With the early 2014 release of Switchfoot's Fading West, fans might have assumed that would have to serve as their sole Switchfoot-fix for the year. But the band surprised many fans by announcing just a week in advance an EP of b-sides from the project. Refusing to skimp, as always, the band offers fans seven songs on The Edge of the Earth that perfectly complement the main album.
One of the songs Switchfoot die-hards are sure to latch onto instantly is "Against the Voices," a track Switchfoot debuted at live shows in 2010 before considering and then shelving it for both Vice Verses and Fading West. The long-anticipated arrival of this track is worth the wait, with clamoring synthesized voices and moody bass laid down by Tim Foreman highlighting the story of internal struggle: "In my mind I hear the voices / in my mind I have my doubts. / Burning fears, these ghosts and apparitions / only a whisper can drown them out."
Another important moment for Switchfoot fans is "What It Costs." This song is the first time in Switchfoot's nearly two decade history that dynamic frontman Jon Foreman steps back, allowing his brother Tim to take the vocal lead. The result is a deeply poignant and vulnerable ballad, a song previously heard during a moment of uncertainty and heartache seen in the band's film. Although Tim Foreman's voice has a slightly higher and cleaner timbre than his older brother's, it manages to hold its own while avoiding sounding incongruous in the context of the other offerings.
"Fading West," which ironically did not make the album of the same name, is the only previously released track here (it was available to fans as part of the Fading West EP released alongside their movie debut tour last year). This is one of the more upbeat selection on The Edge of the Earth EP, offering smooth surf-scene ready vocals and lyrics with a delightful twang in Drew Shirley's guitar.
Another bright track, title cut "Edge of the Earth," takes a stripped back approach instrumentally. The band utilizes a ukelele and a simple melody as they lyrically explore their journey, both in the process of creating and filming Fading West and their over-arching narrative as a group. "Liberty" has the soul of an old spiritual cast in pop rock tones, declaring "every saint has got a past / but every sinner's got a future. / Only You can free my soul."
Most of the other songs take a moodier direction, painting a brooding sonic horizon that resembles Eastern Hymns For Western Shores most closely of the band's prior discography. "Skin and Bones" is a haunting, ethereal exploration of life's wastelands, rooted to a somber drum backbone built by Chad Butler. The lyrics "I'm not afraid to die / afraid to be free. / I'm not afraid to doubt / afraid to believe" are a piercing example of the soul-searching style frontman Jon Foreman writes and sings so well.
"Slow Down My Heartbeat" is another stripped back, melancholy offering, with some stunning keyboard work from Jerome Fontamillas and layered percussion that perfectly mirrors the deliberate movement of the melody.
Closing Thoughts: The Edge of the Earth EP is the perfect match for Fading West. The passionate joy and enthusiastic hope of Fading West is balanced here by the subtle, searching tones of The Edge of the Earth. The songs boast the same inventive nature, finding ways to paint musical pictures without relying as heavily on guitars as past work (although the guitar tones are still textured and vivid). There is less of the pop bent here however, leaning more into uncharted waters of brooding experimental sound and questions that run soul-deep. This is an essential addition to any Switchfoot listener's discography, and perfectly musically rounds out the themes of the movie.
Song to Download Now:
"Against the Voices" (Get it on iTunes here.)