Album Review: Switchfoot ‘Where the Light Shines Through’

switchfoot-where-the-light-shines-through-compressed“Because Hope deserves an anthem” echoes through the U2esque intro that builds into the first track of the latest album ‘Where the Light Shines Through’ (WTLST) by Californian group Switchfoot.
Imagine creating an album with this at the heart! Would the task almost feel so overwhelming that it would cripple you with fear? Switchfoot have climbed into the challenge like a surfer floating into a crushing barrel wave for the first time.They have respected the power of the wave and the result is the most personal group of songs about hope and struggle that the band have brought us.

This is the first focused album since 2011’s ‘Vice Verses’ album. In between was the soundtrack to 2014’s surf rockumentary ‘Fading West’ and while this was released as an album it couldn’t really be taken in context without the accompanying movie.

WTLST builds on the Switchfoot sound that the band has developed since leaving their major label and going on their own, and honestly, this is great. The band has merged into one body that would sound odd without the other components, as we start to hear more of the influences of Jerome and his library of sound that he brings and Drew’s colour that is added to each song. This is a band that has found it’s voice, and in the process has found it’s soul.

The album is scattered with songs that are filled with lyrical hope. They easily connect to the heart and settle in your mind as a reminder of a renewed way of thinking about the situation you’re in. The title track ‘Where the Light Shines Through’ has a chorus that has a sentiment that echoes throughout the album – “Because your scars, Shine light night stars, Yeah your wounds are where the light shines through.”  It is raw in it’s emotion but honest in it’s approach.

Some of the most beautiful moments are raised up from confronting the realness and the pain that the open wound may feel like for some people. Lyrics like “Pain gives birth to the promised land” from ‘I Won’t Let You Go’ or “I hear the shame of my accuser, but it ain’t you” from ‘The Day that I found God’ confront realness and pain and there is beauty in that. Then album turns from the hurt and only seeing the light from a distance, to a journey of chasing it and healing from it. “I want to start healing healing“.

One of the highlights of the album is the track ‘Live it Well,’ a real anthem and a song that will be a stadium hit this summer. This track throws back a level of responsibility onto us. How are we going to live this life knowing that every breath that you take is a miracle?

While we’re on the subject of tours: This year Switchfoot will tour with international rap and hip-hop sensation and billboard chart topper Lecrae. Lecrae makes a guest appearance on the track ‘Looking for America’ as the discussion turns to a nation that has been crippled by fear and entitlement.

As a bonus track it’s wonderful to hear ‘Light and Heavy,’ a song that was written 7 years ago for the annual Heavy and Light event held by To Write Love on Her Arms .This organisation exists to bring to light the often forgotten or hidden topic of depression and self harm , and although the track is a different feel to the rest of the album (as it’s a bonus track) it’s certainly a worthy track considering the theme flowing through this album.

The world is in need of Hope. It seems to be getting darker and while there are many aspects of life that make the world seem a smaller place, there are places where the light doesn’t shine and they seem separated from the rest of the world; This is where the broken live and as these areas hear albums like this, a new hope is birthed and this is where the light shines through.
The world certainly needs more albums like this.

I’ll leave the final words to Jon Foreman, Switchfoot’s lead singer:

We sing because we’re alive. We sing because we’re broken. We sing because we refuse to believe that hatred is stronger than love. We sing because melodies begin where words fail. We sing because the wound is where the light shines through. We sing because hope deserves an anthem. – Jon




Album Review: Switchfoot ‘’The Edge of the Earth’

Switchfoot – ‘The Edge of the Earth’

Have you ever listened to an EP (or album) of B sides and thought, “Wow I know why they left that off the last album”?
Often the songs just aren’t up to the standard of the rest of the album.

This is NOT the case for ‘The Edge of the Earth’

Earlier this year (2014) Switch-foot essentially released a soundtrack to their Rockumentary ‘Fading West’, a film that followed the band on it’s quest for the perfect gig, balancing life and finding the perfect wave.
‘Fading West’ was a departure from some of their heavier rock sound for something more ‘pop’ fueled. While this left a few long term fans wondering if rock and roll had died, those with more of an holistic approached would have seen how well it worked as the back drop to a bigger story for the film.

‘The Edge of the Earth’ is the songs that never made it to the soundtrack album.
As I mentioned before I had gone in expecting an EP of average songs, thinking, “Yep well I can see why THAT song never made the album”. What I discovered were songs that just wouldn’t have fit the rest of the ‘Fading West’ album; they would have been a distraction.

The EP starts off with ‘Fading West’, the song that spawned the idea for the film of the same name. It’s almost a bit comical that it never made the actual album, however it was a good idea hearing the make up of the original soundtrack.

A lot of these newer tracks are a bit darker than what the rest of the full length album has to offer.

‘Against the Voices’ is pretty close to the bone, and it’s great to hear a band really reveal themselves (maybe U2 could learn from Switchfoot).
Jon laments in ‘Against the Voices’, “Cause everybody knows, the hardest war to fight is a fight to be yourself  when the voices try to turn you into someone else”. Then in ‘Skin and Bones’ he sings “Apocalyptic skies, Burning gold
I walk these empty miles, I can’t find a soul”.
These are some of the darkest themes that Switchfoot have confronted… and it’s pretty full on, especially once you have already relaxed to the fun loving Fading West song that starts the album.

The band try something new as Tim Foreman (Jon’s brother) takes the lead vocals for the first time on the song ‘What it Cost’.

This is a great stand alone EP that works as a companion to the Fading West album/Soundtrack. In fact this is what artist should strive to make EP’s sound like. EP’s shouldn’t be an artists throwaways just to get extra cash but a reward to fans to show that they are appreciated but also to show another side of a band that is separate to their larger bodies of work… another glimpse into the story of a band.

This is a great EP showing what a great songwriters the Foreman boys have grown into.
As Janis Joplin famously sung, “Take another little piece of my heart now baby”.
This seems to be what Switchfoot do best… they give it all!


Album Review: Switchfoot ‘Fading West’

Switch-foot – ‘Fading West’

Drummer Larry Mullen Jr. said in the U2 rockumentary ‘Rattle and Hum’ that “It’s a musical journey” and maybe this is the best way to describe the latest offering from Californian band Switchfoot. In fact to say ‘Fading West’ is an album is almost incorrect, it’s more like the soundtrack of a journey.
‘Fading West’ is a musical photo album that shows us snapshots of Switchfoot’s tour around the world, taking in the new sounds they found, the sights, the struggles and the moments of insight.
An album of fresh breath, music and the magnetic pull of the sea…

This is the most personal Switchfoot album so far… it’s so fresh you can still taste the salt from the waves they’ve just surfed!

Before I heard ‘Fading West’ album I thought, “How can Switchfoot better their previous album ‘Vice Verses’? ”
‘Vice Verses’ could be considered one of the best albums out in the past couple of years, an album that is musically gifted, emotionally challenging and yet still accessible…”

How can you beat that?

The Answer… You don’t!

Vice Verses, was Vice Verses… It was the past, lets leave it there and give it the credit it’s due!
Fading West is something new something exciting, and something daring.
It’s daring because ANY band can live on past glory by bringing out an album of 12 songs that mimic what has been done before.
However it’s a risk for a band that says “Let’s create something organic. Let’s push ourselves into the unknown. Let’s discover who we are…”

This album is maybe more mellow than most people are used to hearing from Switchfoot. The screaming guitars and grunt of something more heavy have been pushed back to an extent as the band venture into new sonic inspirations. This might make some Switchfoot fans a little uncomfortable… and that’s GREAT.
Music is there to make you feel good, but there is often nothing that challenges you more than music either and having a band take you off your usual stride is good for the soul, and challenges the band the strive for something that is just as meaningful in other ways.

This is the perfect soundtrack for those who enjoy surfing/skateboarding/snowboarding or anything that gets you away from the crushing monotony of our busy lives… it was an album made for space… of fun and adventure.

There is no doubt this is a surf pop/rock album that is meant to be the soundtrack to your adventures, just as it was for the band.

There is plenty here for everyone and while it’s not going to please those who wanted a whole album with screaming guitars and solos, there are tracks like “Let it out” and “Say it like you mean it” that will cater to that market.
Tracks such as “Love alone is worth the fight” and “Who we are” will reach out to maybe a new generation, as poppier songs that still give emotional depth seldom seen in a pop song these days.

Buy or download the Surf/Rockumentary ‘Fading West’ (the film) and you will have a greater understanding of where the songs come from… While being able to admire the AMAZING  surf skills of Rob Machado and Tom Curren.

I don’t think that this is a step in a new direction for the band…. I think it’s an album that shows the band at their most vulnerable.

SURFS UP… let this be the surf album for the adventure you were made for!

Album Review: Switchfoot ‘Vice Re-Verses’

Vice Re-Verses

Now I have to admit I was in two minds when I heard that Switchfoot was going to be bringing out an album of remixes from their latest full album ‘Vice Verses’. For some reason I was picturing an album that somewhere between U2’s Actung Baby and Discotheque… to be honest I was glad I was wrong.

Vice Verse was easily one of the best albums lyrically and musically that has been produced by any Christian artist in the past couple of years… it was an album that was honest without being cheesy and spiritual without being all ‘mumbo jumbo… plus it just sounded good.

So a remix album?

How will that add to what already was a great album?

The answer is it doesn’t… it seems like it was a great way for the band play with some different sounds and let some of their friends have fun with their sounds at the same time… the plus side of it all was that the fans get to listen to a new side of a group that feels like it’s just finding it’s own sound now, with Hello Hurricane and Vice Verses having what seems to have settled as the ‘Switchfoot sound’.

The remixes are actually REALLY well done… and they really should have been as they were already good songs but the people who remixed them are really good to… Adam Young (Owl City), Darren King (MuteMath), JT Daly (Paper Route)… not to mention the very reliable and often unsung sounds of Drew Shirley and Jerome Fontamillas from Switchfoot themselves.

I really like how the remixes add a new dimension to the songs rather than detracting from them… and there were times I think “wow I hadn’t noticed that in the song before”… and so for me the remixes have been very much a compliment, I don’t think the songs themselves are as good as the original however there are a few that get pretty close.

I really like the honesty that is kept in the songs like ‘Blinding Lights’ and ‘Vice Verses’ as it would have been really easy to take them and add a ‘oonce oonce’… and turn it into a club thrasher that looses the soul and heart of what the song intended to be from the very beginning.

The more banging tracks like ‘Afterlife’ and the ‘Original’ are great bookends to this album and really bring out the fun side of the album.

The track that surprised me the most was ‘War inside’ – this song already had a great groove to it and was really interesting to see how it was going to be worked… and it surprised me and I love it. I would have been easy to lay a phat beat over the top and crunch out a winner… however what Drew and Jerome did was make a song that was a stand out track… and it was the most remixed of the albums… the others were versions of the original… this was a remix…

This album is worth having a listen to… and it works in all settings… It’s a sophisticated remix album, it’s not your usual and that’s good.


Album Review: Family Force 5 ‘III’

Family Force 5 - III

The album starts off with all the guts and glory that you would expect from Crunk Rock pioneers Family Force 5… straight in with a funky distorted guitar riff, and the words “Make a Big deal of it” shouted in the usual one part crunk, one part rock and a big dose of attitude… and as is shown from the off-roader on the cover it’s all in the aid to get you ready for a WILD ride.

Paycheck the second track on the album is less about the noise and more about finding a great groove… but that doesn’t mean that the depth of the writing is going to be any weaker, and as often is the case on albums like this the soul of the album comes in bite sized heart focused phrases like “I used to live my life for the discount, now I thank God for the hand out”

My favourite part of this album is the party cruncher “Wobble” this is a great party starter… and is FF5 at their funky dance floor rocking best… and is a great sample of how Crunk-Rock is taking the world by storm… but’s not all yelling and rocking, ‘You got it’ is like a Sugar Ray, Inner Circle and Jason Mraz collaboration… a Island reggae infused poolside band number… it’s the stuff that summer is made of.

One of the really high moments of III is the diversity the album shows, there is NOTHING that FF5 are afraid to touch… it’s like the ultimate mash up of their own sounds… it really is a trip through the best of pop/rock/rap/R&B music…

But in the middle of the rock and the summer swagger there is this amazing rock number called ‘Not Alone’ and it’s the ultimate rock number, the type that wouldn’t look out of place on a Bon Jovi or even Switchfoot album, and a real testament of the FF5 song writing ability, and a real heart searching track with the lead singer crying “I need you now, I want you now…To tell me that you’re not alone.”..  at this point you may be thinking have FF5 got all serious on me? And just to prove they’re the kings of the bait and switch they hit you with the track ‘Dang Girl’ – a real club stompin’ party poppin’ southern gritty rap style track to keep the momentum on the album dialed up to 10.

People have often asked me what is Crunk-Rock and here is the easiest way to explain it…

The attitude of Punk.

The swagger of Rap.

The fun of Dance/electronica.

The groove of Funk.

The guitar licks of 80′s Metal

And all of that is laced with a taste of the South…

Family Force 5 discribe it like this “Ghetto redneck music.”

This is a great album… a summer rocker… a dancefloor filler… a foot tapper and it may even be the remedy for all things that ail you.

If you’re looking for a fun album look no further… there are enough style and flavour on this album to save you money on the next 8 albums you’re gonna buy…


Album Review: Switchfoot ‘Vice Verses’

Switchfoot 'Vice Verses'

The album starts off with the screaming of a wall of sound… Jon yells “I’ve tasted fire I’m ready to come alive’… it’s clear Switchfoot are back and they’ve got something to say… and they’re gonna leave a piece of themselves on this album.

Switchfoots latest album starts of with all the bravado in the world… the attitude of a punk band, the cool of a 80’s rock band with all the riffs in the world to burn, buckle up this album isn’t about comfort and being nice… this album is about the tensions we live in, and the best way to do this it seems is AT HIGH VOLUME… and the boys are not holding back punches with lyrics like

Eyes open open wide
I can feel it like a crack in my spine
I can feel it like the back of my mind
I am the war inside

After a big start to the album Switchfoot give you a chance to rest musically with the song ‘Restless’, but they’re not about to let you rest on what they are wanting to say…  this album deals with what we all deal with, the battle of our soul, the battle of our minds and ‘Restless’ tells us about the search that goes on…

Switchfoot are sounding like a band that have finally found a sound that ‘fits’ them and songs like ‘Blinding Lights’ show they’re not afraid to pull from their sound treasure trove with tonal colours in their music reminiscent of albums like 2003’s ‘Beautiful letdown’

And to add to the tension of the album they boys through in ‘Selling the news’ – when i first heard this on the album  though someone changed the album, vocally it sounds like Jon is somewhere between some kind of circus ringmaster, and a newsboy on the corner

‘I wanna believe you, I wanna believe
But everything is in-between
The fact is fiction
Suspicion is the new religion’

Lyrically this album is so powerful, and the music only adds to the power of the words which just goes to show the strength of Switchfoots songwriting, and the fact that they are at the peak of their powers… and yet they are brave enough to look into themselves and sing ‘I know i’m not right’…

As the album prepares for a landing the band lays it down on the line with the track ‘Rise above it’ a glimpse that we are born for more than this, and yet we’re living in this world that is not perfect and we’re living everyday with the fact that we’re not perfect either, still dealing with our own vices.

This is the first album in a very very long time that i think hits the mark not only lyrically, but muscially and not only that… but being real and truthful and not willing to pull any punches… there is a sense that blood was left on the mat for this one… and it’s powerful in it’s humbleness…

the album end with this;

And when I reach the other side
I want to look You in the eye
And know that I’ve arrived
In a world where I belong

Where I belong