Switchfoot return with the band’s tenth full album about having hope and looking forward in Where The Light Shines Through.
Switchfoot has now been playing their upbeat and peaceful brand of alternative for twenty years. After nine full albums and no real line up departures the band remains one of the few who stays intact and strong in their career. It’s a rare feat to have a band keep their name value over two decades and also be known as a staple for being genuinely good people who simply want to make music. Now in 2016 comes the band’s tenth full album and marks the return to an independent label album release after many years with major record label companies. While that sounds like a big change, a familiar face in John Fields is returning to help with producing who also was behind Switchfoot’s best-selling The Beautiful Letdown and several other of the band’s albums.
And with the new album Where The Light Shines Through comes more inspirational and uplifting ballads as the title eludes. These inspirational songs however came at the expense at some long and troubling times for the band. In the press release for the album, Tim Foreman said: “We went through a lot, individually and as a band, in making this record…Not to be melodramatic, but it was a dark season for us, and this record became a source of light in the middle of a dark season…That’s how we landed on this idea that the wound is where the light shines through; this album is about being surprised by hope.”
Two months ago Switchfoot started releasing recordings and new tracks from the upcoming album and true to form it was exactly what was to be expected from the band. The track Float delivered a deep rhythm that also captures the SoCal alternative surfer lifestyle wrapped up in just a few minutes. In many ways this is a great description of Switchfoot to someone who has never heard the band before.
Float has that laid back summer vibe. The type of sound you envision being played as the soundtrack to beach footage. The baseline is the star of this track as it’s clear and consistent. The rhythm revolves around it and rather than the chorus elevating from the verses it all feels like one continuous sequence. Rather it feels like a group of guys jamming in the same melody and style without it wanting to end.
While this track isn’t bad, it gets repetitive quickly because of that continuous level feeling. Although the bassline is great it doesn’t add enough to keep interest and Jon Foreman’s vocal delivery doesn’t give much of a dynamic performance as it feels more reserved and mellow. While it’s not his character to really get overly loud, I feel like Float could have used SOMETHING to make it stand out a little more than a low tone sound over four minutes.
While Float may not have set Where The Light Shines Through on the best foot forward, there are definite gems on the album that truly highlight Switchfoot’s capability of making an inspiring and invigorating song. It’s the tracks like I Won’t Let You Go, Live It Well, and Hope Is The Anthem that serve as the base and strong points of this album. It’s when Switchfoot is able to build a track on an elevating sound that continues to raise in melody and energy while feeling uplifting that they shine. I Won’t Let You Go starts with the slow build and has a natural progression and Jon Foreman feels more involved with the song. It’s not a loud, bombastic track but it feels much more memorable than a track like Float and it makes you want to hear it again after it’s over.
The unfortunate quality of the album is that the tracks that have replay value and make you want to hear them again are somewhat few. There aren’t many tracks that are flat-out unpleasant outside of an occasional brash sounding appearance from Lecrae in Looking For America, but a majority of the album is somewhat forgettable. But even with that being said, there are still some shining moments worth hearing.
Switchfoot have earned their success and award winning discography and with that the praise they’ve gained from their peers. When they are able to focus and really make something work, it shines. Unfortunately there are also a few misses along the hits. While nothing is ever unbearable or low in quality, it can also sometimes leave you wanting more. Overall, Where The Light Shines Through is an ambitious venture where a band reaches deep and really sings about hope and looking forward, but through that this album also doesn’t deliver much in sound we haven’t already heard. The good does outweigh the bad in the entire play through, but admittedly there is a hoping for more and not getting something that completely satisfies.