San Diego rockers discover the art of slowing. This is a hip-hoppier version of their sound and it beautifully complements all they have done before, as it reminds us why we love music.
Label: Fantasy Records
Time: 14 tracks / 52 minutes
Switchfoot’s somewhat brief hiatus is over and this release is an excellent way to come back. I wonder whether the slight break from constant touring has brought out the joys of slowing, as this album is – unusually – not one that you would necessarily file under ‘rock’.
Oh, there are a couple: the opener, with its classic Switchfoot sound, and the energetic “Take my Fire” fit easily into that category; but most of the album has a far broader set of styles and, surprisingly, it is all the better for it.
Take the title track: the video has them finger-clicking and what better way to cover its hip-hop lilt? That rhythm is found in several other tracks, such as the catchy and light-hearted “Voices,” lifted by some perky programming.
“All I Need” and “Prodigal Soul” are two of several arms-in-the-air anthemic songs, where the words and tunes seem perfectly joined.
Based on electronica and featuring Kaela Sinclair on vocals, “The Hardest Art” is unrecognisable as Switchfoot until Jon Foreman breaks in halfway through; but even here, where they are as different as they have ever been, the song picks you up like a surfer and carries you along.
Then “Dig New Streams” is almost certainly a deliberate psych Beatles parody, which dips into 7/8 time to paraphrase Jesus: “If you’ve been hurt by the church of black and white/ come unto me, find rest, my burden’s light.”
In fact, the break seems to have re-rooted their emphasis on faith, which comes out in various songs. “Let it Happen” has a chorus of “I don’t hold what my future holds, but I know you’re my future” and the title track has an understated depth with lyrics like “The same word from where the stars were flung/ Love’s the language/ Love is your native tongue” as it states that God is love and laments that we lost his way. It’s arguably as good a track as they have ever recorded.
“Joy Invincible” is one of the slower, dreamier, spacious pieces and it features the catchphrase, “Hallelujah Nevertheless” as it speaks of trust when you need to be brave. And – unlike the trite choruses often heard – in two songs they have the honesty to talk of surrender as a struggle, rather than something done as easily as making your breakfast.
This is the sort of album that reminds us why we love music. It is a wonderful complement to gems like Vice Verses and Beautiful Letdown, and shows that they still have surges of tidal power under their surfboards.