Double the Reactions for Switchfoot's 10th Album
Posted July 07, 2016
By NRTeamAdmin, Staff Reviewer
Some albums are so significant and rich that it's more than one writer can tackle alone-- so NRT's Executive Editor Marcus Hathcock and Associate Editor Mary Nikkel teamed up to bring you their thoughts on Switchfoot's highly anticipated tenth studio album Where The Light Shines Through.
MARY: The album opens with the classic Switchfoot sound in the vein of Nothing Is Sound. The instrumentation takes center stage in a lot of ways on this track, building an atmosphere, a feeling of longing, rather than hinging on certain lyrics or a limited hook.
MARCUS: You can tell right away that Switchfoot isn't interested in making the sequel to Fading West on this-- the guitars are back. I'm a big fan of the classic rock jamming on the bridge of this song. There's a definite art to creating both an ethereal vibe and a gritty rock jam. The song is a great prayer about needing God to intervene in our lives.
MARY: "Float" is a chilled out summer jam, the perfect complement to a road trip or a party on the water's edge. The music is simultaneously understated and just funky enough to be intriguing.
MARCUS: This is the first song I heard from the new project, and at first, I was a tad concerned. It's so different musically from anything Switchfoot has ever done-- to the point that it doesn't exactly sound like a Switchfoot song. That said, in context of the rest of the record, it works-- REALLY WELL. The 7/8 time signature is a signal that the band is continuing to push the envelope musically, and it grooves really well. An intensely metaphoric song, I think "Float" is talking about how in Christ we aren't bogged down by the petty things that occupy the world. It's a chill, surfer-friendly tune, to be sure.
"Where The Light Shines Through"
MARCUS: This is a Sunday afternoon drive kind of song, sonically. It has some soulful elements to it. It has a happy-go-lucky groove that betrays its deeply poignant lyrics about how our greatest weaknesses and pain can be the point of our greatest triumph and the place where God shows up the most. Some more classic rock elements propel the high-pitched summary Jon Foreman sings in the bridge.
MARY: There is definitely a classic rock vibe in Drew Shirley's guitar tone ties itself to a catchy melody as the lyrics displays signature Jon Foreman heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics: "Your scars shine like dark stars / Your wounds are where the light shines through."
"I Won't Let You Go"
MARY: My first impulse was to write this off as just a token ballad, but that would have been tragically missing out. This is the kind of song that makes a soul feel seen, heard and valued. It is quiet grace in musical form.
MARCUS: This feels like one of Switchfoot's classic soundtrack-friendly, emotive hits. The song is an overt message from the Creator to His creation: "If you could learn to trust me somehow / I swear that I won't let you go / If you could only let go of doubt / If you could just believe me somehow / I swear that I won't let you go." It builds in intensity, as the Father's heart cries out the refrain He's clearly singing over all of us. The instrumentation here is simple and serves the lyrics well, allowing the listener to reflect on them.
"If The House Burns Down Tonight"
MARCUS: One of my favorite songs on the record, this one made me think of Gungor with its acoustic-and-piano intro-- an intro that is so drastically different from the rest of the song that quickly emerges. It's extremely fun and catchy and driving-- and, speaking of driving, it's probably the one that'll get you pulled over for speeding. It crams a lot of sobering truth about the fleeting nature of life into four-and-a-half minutes.
MARY: A slow-burn start builds into a blazing anthem, a reckless, breathless declaration that no matter what we lose in this life, the people we love will always be the only thing that mattered all along. I dare you not to crank the volume on this one.
"The Day That I Found God"
MARY: The pensive lyrics take the listener on a journey through all the voices in our lives that are not God's, settling ultimately on the conclusion "The day I lost myself / was the day that I found God." This is some of Switchfoot's most head-on, deliberate spiritual wrestling in years.
MARCUS: There's no guessing as to what this track is about. This overt song talks about Jon's (and many people's) spiritual journey. It's a laid back testimony with a slow hip-hop beat that is totally honest while not coming across too preachy to non-Christian audiences. Soaring Southern rock guitar tones provide an extra oomph of emotion to already emotional lyrics. I like the electronic staccato "ah" sounds they use at the beginning and end.
"Shake This Feeling"
MARCUS: This mid-tempo song is the album highlight for me, and one that shares what is as close to pessimism as Switchfoot gets, openly asking if people have lost hope. Jon sings, "I'm wishing we could start all over again," reflecting on the broken state of the world. He also sings, "We've got to fight to fall back in love again," in a rallying cry for people to return to peace and brotherhood among people. Jon's passionate, reaching vocals are some of the highest I've heard in awhile, and it works really well.
MARY: This slightly wistful, introspective piece says "I can't seem to shake this feeling / Maybe it's time we start healing." It challenges soul stagnancy with brutal honesty married to a call towards hope.
"Bull in a China Shop"
MARY: The only previous precedent for this track would be perhaps "Selling the News" from Vice Verses. The funky rock and roll jam has infectious hip hop-infused verses that make it perhaps the most straight forward fun cut on the record.
MARCUS: Yeah, "Selling the News" is a good comparison for this fun, funky song. There's no talk-rapping, but the singing is definitely a step away from that. It captures a little bit of the vibe of the early years of Switchfoot. Sounds like Tim Foreman sings the bridge on this one: "What are you waiting for? The future's here." The song basically describes Switchfoot's mission as a band: "I wanna rock this block like a bull in a china shop" because "I'm singing for more than just a dead solution." Pay special attention to the bass playing gymnastics.
"Live it Well"
MARY: The lead Christian radio single doesn't necessarily push musical boundaries, but the call in the lyrics certainly pushes the boundaries of our perspective and all-too-frequent apathy as it reminds "life is short, I want to live it well / and You're the One I'm living for."
MARCUS: This was the second song from the record I heard, and it concerned me, too, as it sounded a bit too predictable from Switchfoot as an AC radio-ready hit. But again, in context, it works fantastically as the bookend to the song before it. They go from a fun romp about rocking with the truth into a ballad about individually making the most of life. Fans of Switchfoot's Learning to Breathe-era tunes will especially love this one.
"Looking for America"
MARCUS: Hey, it's the first real rap feature on a Switchfoot song! And it's Lecrae! And it's awesome that this collab led to that little tour they did together. Both artists have similar vibes about ministering to the culture, to rallying the Church, and calling people to want more for their lives. This tune is a hard-hitting, aggressive stomper that asks questions about the soul of America in 2016: "America, who are you?"
MARY: This track proves two things: first, that Lecrae really can pull off a collaboration with anyone, and second, that Switchfoot really can pull off whatever they set their creative minds to. The challenge to a chaotic culture rings clear through Jon's melody and Lecrae's rhymes.
"Healer of Souls"
MARY: Rock and roll needs hymns and spirituals of its own. This song 100 percent fills that role. "Ain't we human, ain't we all got problems? / Honey, rock and roll ain't gonna solve them now" Jon Foreman croons before launching into a grooving chorus calling us toward the one true Healer of Souls.
MARCUS: A little more of the Southern edge found its way into the album, one last time. Plain and simple, Switchfoot has found its way back into unabashed, good old fashioned rock and roll. Buzzing, gritty guitars and drum interludes on the verses would make Jack White fans happy on this head-bobbing jam track.
"Hope is the Anthem"
MARY: The album closer captures Switchfoot's stated mission for the album: "hope deserves an anthem." Doubt, faith, struggle, redemption-- all these themes from tracks past are woven together under the banner lyric "hope is the anthem of my soul."
MARCUS: Let's end this thing with another beautifully poetic ballad. Switchfoot summarizes what they've been trying to say on this record-- and throughout their career-- on the closing track. Check out the octave jump Jon hits when singing the chorus near the end of the song, as if he's screaming out something we might not have caught the first few times he said it.
MARY: This is every element you hope for on a Switchfoot album dialed up to eleven. After the more slick, pop-influenced sound that governed Fading West, I personally am ecstatic for the return of Drew Shirley's masterful guitar tones. The Foreman brothers crafted lyrics that dig deep into all the richness of human experience, but more than ever before they have done so with phrasing that can resonate with a wide audience-- skillfully tapping universal emotions of hope, doubt, faith, fear and the ongoing fight to see God's face in all of them. Switchfoot's tenth album is one of the best in their catalogue, and the highest contender on my list for album of the year.
MARCUS: Where the Light Shines Through, like many Switchfoot albums, needs a few active listens to fully digest it and understand its intentional flow and continuity. The band continues to try new things musically (and vocally!), which is incredibly exciting and gratifying. After Fading West all but eliminated electric guitars, it's safe to say the rock is back, but they've altered it a bit with new elements of funk, soul, Southern rock, classic rock and new tones. Thematically, they don't rest on their laurels, but they do rest on the same values of love, hope and the fleeting nature of life. Similar themes that the band clearly believes in, and continues to hammer to us, an audience that desperately needs to hear it.
Song to Download Now:
MARY: "If The House Burns Down" (Get it on iTunes here.)
MARCUS: "Shake This Feeling" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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