Hello, Switchfoot

Yeah, I’m late on this one. And I’m thinking of a few people who are going to kick me for this, but I just finally got around to checking out Switchfoot’s latest album, Hello Hurricane. Switchfoot was one of my favorite bands back in the first half of this decade, and after A Beautiful Letdown, I thought they’d remain that way for a long time. That album is still one of my first “go-tos” for a variety of situations and emotions, and the raw emotion on that album is just amazing – nearly every track on it holds a special place in my heart, and can be sung on cue from memory. There’s not a single track on the album that I don’t love.

Their next album, Nothing is Sound, was pretty good, but I thought a noticeable step down from A Beautiful Letdown. When Oh! Gravity came out, they’d drifted further from where I’d hoped, going with a less polished, more experimental feeling to the album that I really didn’t think was that great. As a result, “new Switchfoot album” wasn’t really something I was thinking about when November rolled around, and it wasn’t until I kept hearing about how good it was from everyone that I decided to hit Amazon MP3 and see if it lived up to the hype.

Let me just start by spoiling my conclusion a bit and note that the album is now repeating for the third time and I still have an idiot grin on my face.

Track by track breakdown:

  1. Needle and Haystack Life – A touching song about a “needle girl in a haystack world” who is losing hope in life, and Jon again espouses a simple message of hope. Kind of an odd choice for a first track, but a good one.
  2. Mess of Me – Upon hearing this song, I immediately thought “this is the new Meant to Live” – this is a song you will find yourself moving to. Be it just a little head nodding or dancing the night away, this is the high-energy, fun Switchfoot that caught my ear back in ’98, and the message is a clear-cut, no-nonsense declaration of the singer’s fallen state and hope for grace. Expect to hear this on the radio if you haven’t already.
  3. Your Love is a Song – The album slows down a bit with this celebration of love. Jon has been quoted as saying he sees the universe as a symphony, and this is a simple message of grace and love using the analogy of a melody that surrounds and uplifts the hearer.
  4. The Sound (John M Perkins’ Blues) – Back to the rock. I dig the beat on this one a lot, and it’s apparently written as a response to some of the writings of John Perkins – again, the message here again is the power of love. It’s a recurring theme of Switchfoot’s, and this is a pretty solid song overall, so I’ve already decided this is a darn good album at this point.
  5. Enough to Let Me Go – Another lighter song, linking the ideas of faith and romantic love, asking “do you love me enough to let me go?” He equates love to breathing, drawing in and then out, how he sees love as being strongest and most perfect when there is a healthy respect for each other and when people aren’t relying on each other but rather God. A nice break from the “I can’t live without you for a moment” love songs we hear so often.
  6. Free – A very anthemic feeling rock song, begging God to release him from the burdens of sin and fallen nature, because “inside this shell there’s a prison cell.” A solid track overall.
  7. Hello Hurricane – The title song of the album is a daring one. He challenges a hurricane to try to stop him, saying it’s not enough to silence his love. A very strong message of “love will overcome” again, although I find the lyric “Everything I have I count as loss, before I started building, I counted up these costs” an interesting one, as it seems to add an aspect of preparation and grim reality to the optimism of the rest of the song – he knows there will be loss and great cost, but it doesn’t matter. He’s ready. It’s not one of my favorite songs, but I like the message.
  8. Always – This song follows a single life from the moment of birth, through the pains of life, and ultimately to the hallelujahs of recognizing that “every breath is a second chance” and the realization that the life has always been God’s, from the moment it began, and the surrender to that truth.
  9. Bullet Soul – Back to the rockin’ riffs with this one, a general song of encouragement to his listeners. It’s a pretty fun song, and I’d imagine this one gets rowdy at the live shows, and you can hear how much fun the band has playing it. Not really sure what he is talking about with the idea of a “bullet soul,” though.
  10. Yet – A softer, very heartfelt song about hope in the face of fear and confusion and desperation. Contains one of my favorite lines on the album, “If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t love, if it doesn’t break your heart, it’s not enough, it’s when you’re breaking down with your insides coming out that you find out what your heart is made of.”
  11. Sing it Out – A prayer for remedy, as the singer realizes that the world is a (beautiful?) letdown, and that all he can count on and all he needs is God.
  12. Red Eyes – This song seems to wrap the album up by bringing it back to Needle and Haystack Life, even closing with some of the same lyrics, which nicely seals the album and gives a clear thread of cohesion throughout. Apparently, the band plays the songs back-to-back in the order they are on the album, which makes a lot of sense. The song is about a person who reaches ahead with a fearful hope that there is something worth reaching for, even as things fall apart around him. A strong finale to a good record.

So, overall, a very solid album. There are definitely tracks I feel are stronger and weaker, but a lot of these will grow on me as I keep listening, I’m sure. It’s no A Beautiful Letdown, but it’s probably my favorite since then – and it’s got me excited about Switchfoot again. I’m glad they’re still strong and making new strides, and am now really looking forward to the next album.

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