Last year was a busy one for the guys in Switchfoot. In December they released their first documentary, Fading West, a film following them around the world as they searched for inspiration and more waves to surf. Throughout the filming they wrote their ninth studio album, also titled Fading West, which served as the documentary’s soundtrack and released last week.
Switchfoot is primarily a band with Christian themes throughout their core, however, they appeal to secular culture as well because they aren’t afraid to ask tough questions such as, “Where is God in the genocide?” You might see Switchfoot’s discography next to Mercy Me in a Christian bookstore, but you’ll find a world of difference when comparing lyrics, as well as evolution of sound.
The overall feel of Fading West is encapsulated in tracks like, “Love Alone Is Worth The Fight” and “When We Come Alive.” Their full of warm and spacious tones accompanied with anthem like melodies blending nicely with the always honest and hopeful-heavy lyrics from Jon Foreman.
However, per usual, Foreman still tackles challenging issues and asks important questions throughout Fading West. For instance, “The World You Want” asks this generation, “Is this the world you want? You’re making it every day you’re alive.” This track also holds one of the more powerful messages Foreman has ever delivered:
What you say is your religion/ How you say it’s your religion/ Who you love is your religion/ How you love is your religion/ All your science your religion/ All your hatred your religion/ All your wars are your religion/ Every breath is your religion
Again, there’s a religious undertone, but it’s conveyed candidly. Lines stating, “All your wars are your religion” will earn respect across the culture. All the guys believe in God, but as Foreman sings in the reflective “Fading West” single, “Who We Are,” “We were just kids who believed in more than just dreams… more than just justified ends to a means.”
If there’s a rip in the tide it’s early in the album during “Say It Like You Mean It,” which seems to be a recycled version of the band’s hit, “The Sound” from their album, Hello Hurricane, mixed with the feel of “The War Inside” from their previous album, Vice Verses.
“The War Inside” was the first time the band attempted an ambient and distorted, almost droning, type of rock sound that is prevalent in “Say It Like You Mean It.” But midway through Fading West the guys find their way down that road again with “BA55,” and they nail it with possibly the coolest and darkest song they’ve ever made.
With their past few releases, Switchfoot has shown an ability to create warm and nostalgic moods with memorable words. “All Or Nothing At All,” “Saltwater Heart” and “Slipping Away” are the front-runners for this particular album. Listen closely during the second verse of “Slipping Away,” as a distinct harmony reminiscent of Imogen Heap pops up—and it’s awesome, and no I’m not kidding. I was somewhat fond of this track from the first listen. Leaving my teenage years with adulthood staring me down felt exactly like Foreman yearns here, “Remember that kid with the quivering lip, whose heart was on his sleeve like a first-aid, where are you now?”
Old-school Switchfoot fans are treated with “Let It Out,” a track that would fit superbly on their best-selling album, The Beautiful Letdown, released more than a decade ago. This track feels right when partnered with its scene in the documentary, but if you hear it for the first time without seeing the documentary, it paints a perfect picture of youth group kids driving to church with their windows down.
Fading West closes with “Back to the Beginning Again” and begs for an open-road reflection of life. I’m not sure if the guys will ever close an album out as well as they did on their previous album Vice Verses, but this track is enough to continue a three-album span of appropriately closing an album.
[I reviewed this album in comparison to other Switchfoot albums. It’s not as powerful as their previous two efforts, but it’s not a step backwards either. Fading West is a decent stand-alone album, but an excellent soundtrack. I encourage listeners to watch the documentary first, and then listen to the album. The pictures these songs create are enhanced through beautiful cinematography combined with a heartfelt and passionate storyline.]