This is an album that gives gravitas to the pop format without losing the sense of fun. Switchfoot still rocks...
Where The Light Shines Through
12 tracks / 49:35 minutes
Considering that the band has been around for a couple of decades now it would be easy to say, ‘this ain’t your father’s Switchfoot,’ but that would be the easy way out. Certainly, a lot of water has been surfed by the San Diego natives, and their new album, Where The Light Shines Through, reveals a studio-savvy band that really knows how to make a record, as they say. Where The Light Shines Through relies more on the unique voice of Jon Foreman, great production, and solid songwriting and less on a particular band sound, if that makes sense. In fact, this project has a pretty diverse assortment of styles all well-served by the band, which morphs from alternative pop to classic Beatles-influenced rock, to big ballads. And, dare I say it – in “Looking For America” even incorporates rap….
Switchfoot employs more electronics in their songs these days, sometimes sounding a bit like their fellow alt-pop compadres, MuteMath (listen to the start of “Holy Water”) and have produced some very danceable grooves on songs like the infectious, funky “Float,” a song that would not sound very out of place on MuteMath’s recent Vitals project. Foreman’s restrained vocal, matching the main melody with an effective falsetto (at least I’m guessing that was all Jon), brother Tim’s tasty bass riff, Chad Butler’s solid drumming, and Drew Shirley’s percussively rhythmic guitar bring the band as close as they’ve ever come to disco.
Lest that last sentence frighten you, the title track follows with a full-on band attack that proves that all is well with the world and that Switchfoot is indeed alive and firmly grounded in rock and roll. “Where The Light Shines Through” is a wonderful rock and roll song with a great chorus, verse, chorus structure, a dynamic bridge, and fine performances on drums, keys, guitar, bass and vocals. Everything that these guys ever learned from the music they grew up on is in this excellent, memorable track that should bring down the house at every live performance.
For those looking for the big relationship ballad that may or may not be about God (different listeners will come to different conclusions) there’s the beautiful “I Won’t Let you Go,” and the radio-ready pop song, “Shake This Feeling.” The big positive-message anthem, “Live it Well,” will please the sing-along crowd with lyrics like, “Yeah, I'm living for more than just a funeral, I wanna burn brighter than the dawn…”
If there’s one song that shows the wide-ranging stylistic chops of the band it’s “If The House Burns Down Tonight.” Proclaiming, “And if the house burns down tonight, I got everything I need with you by my side …and let the rest burn,” the song starts out sounding like a sparse Gungor ballad, then kicks into gear with a modern alt beat. Before the song is over, it’s a powerful full band treatment that has Switchfoot channeling Meatloaf in the chorus (there’s no way to make that sound normal, is there?) and even a little bit of Springsteen in the energetic attack.
Foreman asks good questions and offers hopeful answers in a powerful song that will resonate with believers and seekers alike – “The Day That I Found God.” Starting with a spare arrangement of textured vocal back up and piano chords, the song builds to a Beatle-esque track with some wonderful slide guitar work and some very Ringo-like drumming before ending in a delightfully trippy fade. The lyrics are confessional rather than finger-pointing:
“My enemies weren't the ones I had fought
My liberties weren't the freedoms I had sought
What I learned weren't the lessons I'd been taught
I found out the day I lost myself was
The day that I found God…”
Less serious is “Bull in A China Shop,” a musically whimsical tour de force of 60’s-influenced fun that lets the band go full-tilt in the studio. Everybody gets a chance to shine – great stuff! The incredibly timely “Looking For America” brings back the gravitas, although in an unusual hybrid of Foreman and the rapper Lecrae. “Land of the free, home of the brave, But Lord knows that we need plenty change,” raps Lecrae, who’s answered by Foreman’s “I'm looking for the place that I was born, I'm looking for a way to fix what's torn.” The lyrics go to some uncomfortable places, but that’s the intention…
Feedback, an incredibly heavy beat, and the horn section formerly known as John Painter start “Healer of Souls” explosively. Once again, the band gets a chance to rock out without restrictions and the result sounds like a party.
A fitting climax is the big, inspirational “Hope Is The Anthem,” and a strong anthem it is.
“My lungs and I were born to fight
Sometimes I'm not sure what I'm fighting for
But death ain't the only end in sight
Cause this ain't a battle it's a lifelong war…”
Switchfoot declares in no uncertain terms that hope only comes from one place. Where The Light Shines Through is a strong offering from a band that’s in a place where they’re free to expand their sonic borders, producing radio-ready music. This is an album that gives gravitas to the pop format without losing the sense of fun. Where The Light Shines Through shows that Switchfoot rocks but still knows how to throw a curve or two.