As wide as the ocean that leant them their surf-inspired name, Switchfoot keeps adding positive notches to their musical belt as their canon expands with time. With the release of their ninth full-length studio album, the band makes a strong impact in what could well be the most eclectic album the band has released — and certainly vying for the most encouraging.
Prior to its release, with the help of a social media campaign, Switchfoot encouraged fans to complete the phrase “_____ is where the light shines through.” As black and white photographs of fans holding signs with words like “autism,” “sobriety,” “innocence” and “vulnerability” flooded Facebook and Twitter, it was clear something remarkable was taking root before the first single from the album was released. It would turn out to be more than just a collection of music, though; it has proved to be a challenge to do more and choose better for this brief life.
There’s a bright aura radiating from every note of the album, making it the foundation for each level of the songs. There’s a ’90s post-grunge nostalgia captured in the body of the title track, closely mirrored by “Bull In A China Shop,” which, appropriately, is about a rollicking good time and little else. With its circusy backbeat, psychedelic bridge and a hip-hop influence vocalist Jon Foreman tries on, it’s as much Gorillaz as it is Sgt. Pepper’s.
The ever-evolving rock vets also dabbled in varied levels of connecting points with God, the surrounding world and the inner self. Worship takes on a new-age tone in “Holy Water,” while “Hope is the Anthem” is an instant contender for this year’s Sunday morning staple. Other tracks were less specific in address, some centered on finding peace in loss (“The Day that I Found God”), some about making the decision to amplify the risk and reward of life (“If the House Burns Down Tonight”). But Switchfoot really shines in collaboration with the bold hip-hop dynamo Lecrae, calling out a hurting nation in “Looking for America.” Although one could argue the importance of any song, this one specifically leaves a lasting impact. It holds no bars in rooting out the pain in the U.S. Foreman identifies the citizens, in part, are guilty of cultivating turmoil on literal and figurative levels; at the same time, he deftly espouses wisdom in an unpredictable world of spontaneous violence. Between the dense message, unusual song structure and a looping theme, it’s a line drive to the heart, a track impossible to ignore.
Switchfoot may not have any definite solutions, but with When the Light Shines Through they offer an olive branch, a glimmer of hope to the masses. The lyrics may say the wound is the window through which hope can be seen, but, in this sonically, culturally and spiritually significant album, it’s very clear that beyond the hurt is a greater purpose where people change and encouragement can manifest.
Switchfoot Photo By Robbie Jeffers