Tuesday, September 22, 2009

FootColumn: "Hello Hurricane" anxiously being anticipated

November. November of 2008, I first heard the Fray’s new single (“You Found Me”), and was anticipating several new releases in the year of 2009. Namely, I was waiting for Red’s “Innocence and Instinct,” The Fray’s second studio effort, Jar’s of Clay’s opus “The Long Fall Back To Earth” (which by the way is a simply awesome record) and a new Switchfoot album, which I believed was to drop in March of that year.

September. Now, several new albums later, and almost a year from that day, I’m still waiting for a Switchfoot album. Not to say that I have of have been spent every waking moment thinking about it, (although I certainly think about it every day) but the wait’s starting to feel a little long, although I'm sure it will be worth it, and I know SF has reasons for the delay. From that day in November a year ago, I’ve been waiting nervously for the new album. It’s been a really interesting ride, and like any other, it’s had it’s ups and downs. When I learned Switchfoot was releasing four albums, I went around with a huge smile on my face for several days (I sure hope they’re still doing that, since I haven’t heard anything about the other three in a while, although there’s no reason to believe they won’t). Also, when I heard the new songs live, more happiness filled my day, as it did when they announced an Atlanta, GA tour date. But when they kept moving the album back month after month, it began to wear on me a little. I went through the whole summer checking and re-checking for new SF news, hoping that they would finally set a release date in stone. When the deal with Atlantic was announced, I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that it couldn’t be long now. Then, when “Mess of Me” finally hit youtube, I yelled in happiness, marked my calendar for November 10th, and emailed the link to all my friends.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, the point is that I’ve been waiting, (and waiting anxiously for a while now) and there’s a few things that worried me for a while about the album for some time. I won’t lie. Don’t hate me here, but I wasn’t a huge fan of “Oh!Gravity.” I didn’t hate it – on the contrary I liked it, and admired how Switchfoot toyed with their sound for the album. But overall, it fell short compared to “Nothing Is Sound” and “The Beautiful Letdown.” Why, you ask? Well, because of one thing: the lyrics. Not that they were bad, they weren’t and I enjoyed them. The problem is, they were nothing compared to their previous two masterpieces. Again I say, “Oh! Gravity.” was a solid work of musicianship. The problem was the lyrics weren’t Jon Foreman-esque enough. To put it plainly, there wasn’t a song to rival the magnificent thoughts of “Twenty-Four,” “On Fire,” or “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine.” There were ballads on O!G, but they weren’t anywhere near these songs, at least in my humble opinion, feel free to disagree.

I never worried that Jon Foreman had lost his breathtaking songwriting skills, and his solo works proved that beyond a doubt. But I worried, just a little, that the lyrics could be less than amazing on the new record. Almost every band I listen to has a quality that sets them apart. For example, Anberlin combines great instrumentals with a great voice and meaningful lyrics, Coldplay combines great piano work with honesty and and and epic endings on many songs, such as “Fix You.”. Switchfoot has a signature sound with some of the most thought provoking lyrics I have ever heard. They lost much of that on their sixth studio effort. When I first heard the live clip of “Hello Hurricane” I loved it, the lyrics, (what I heard of them) were solid, and the new-ish style sounded great. But after a few listens to “Mess of Me” I began to worry. In many ways this song paralleled “American Dream” which is a good song, but the lyrics weren’t what I was looking for. More specifically, I began to worry that Switchfoot was trying to do the same thing again, which is to talk about our problem with the temporal things in this world. Then I thought about it more. And it occurred to me that perhaps I was wrong. Yes, Switchfoot was ranting against the evils in our society again, but that’s a message we need to hear, and they do it very well. Pretty much nobody else even tries to sing about the ways we’ve gone wrong in this life. Secondly, the instrumentals were the best from any Switchfoot song I’d ever heard in their career. Then, as I threw myself into the lyrics more, I found myself finding the signature hidden meaning Jon so cleverly puts into every song. Once again that smile crept into my face, and as I looked over the lyrics for the rest of the songs from Hello Hurricane, all my fears left me, and the anticipation returned.

See, I’ve been disappointed a couple of times this year, or to put it more specifically, most of my favorite bands had disappointed me a little with their latest efforts. Mae’s “Singularity” was good, but fell flat compared to the “Everglow”. Same with Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”. Skillet’s new album was a carbon copy of their previous one (although they’re not one of my faves by a long shot). But every time I heard a disappointing song, I would think, “Oh well, at least the Switchfoot album will be great.” Now I didn’t stake my life on it or anything, but the album has become extremely important to me, for various reasons. So for the album to possibly not meet expectations would have been awful to say the least. In the end then, I was very happy to find it was up to par with their previous works, and surpasses them in many ways. I actually was able to read all the lyrics from LOBH, and found them to be simply Switchfoot lyrics. (no other descriptions fit).

So, I’ve written an extremely long Foot Column about my anticipations this year, and my initial thoughts concerning the new album. If you’ve felt any of the things I mentioned here, or you’re also anticipating anxiously, I hope it was worth your time. I am happily awaiting the album (only one and a half more months!) and also enjoying Mess of Me to the fullest. So thanks for reading, and if you like/disliked/agreed/disagreed with anything I just wrote, please comment below. (do it anyways) Thanks!



Kris Puckett said...


I can understand where you are coming and I appreciate your writing. What I see is an arc, a meta story going on with Jon and Co. TBL was the start of the arc, it raised questions, challenged what it means to live and called out what humanity is, a beautiful letdown. NIS goes even deeper into the problem and delves in to the darkness and dissonance. O!G just as NIS are at the middle of the arc. They are the conflict the tension. O!G mirrors NIS lyrically for me. Both contain the discussion of the problem. But the end of the arc is HH. The hope, the solution well as close to a solution as SF might give without saying where the hope comes from. I might be wrong, but I see the songs and albums as a progression. It is a journey. NIS and O!G were the low points, while from what I have read and heard from HH, the album will look for the positives.

But we will see on NOV 10. I agree with you about the excitement for HH. I am more excited with every passing day.

Joe said...

I agree with you TJ. Even though I think "Let Your Love Be Strong" is on par with the four songs you listed from NIS and TBL. I think Oh! was needed for SF. It was raw. It was risky. If NIS and TBL were intricate masterpieces...Oh! was a sprawling, abstract work of art. I think Hello Hurricane is going to combine the best of all three and yet add even more to the beautiful identity they've constructed. Keep up the good work :)


Thomas said...

Thanks guys! yeah, I'm really pumped for it, from what I've heard, I'm thinking their best

David said...

I agree with you, TJ. however I might add I actually really enjoyed "Head Over Heels [In This Life]" on OH! Gravity...especially in the lyrics where he says "We both know what these open arms are for.."

Anyway so yea for me personally I would put this song on par with the songs you mentioned from their previous works.