Less than two months ago, Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman introduced the world to his debut solo project, Fall EP - the first of what would be four consecutive EPs, all bearing the title of the four seasons in a year, with each aiming to capture the feel of its respective season. Winter EP is the second release, and the first in 2008, also releasing in a companion 2-disc set to retail, packaged with Fall.
Winter is an expectantly melancholic effort, even more so than its predecessor. While Autumn is a season greatly known for the cooler weather and the falling leaves as things begin to die away, Winter is oftentimes bitterly cold and rather desolate. Winter opens with "Learning How To Die," a dreary ballad about coming to the realization that every day is a day closer to death. Foreman's tired vocals strain to reach higher notes than he normally attempts to hit, and all adds up to a bleak start for Winter. "Behind Your Eyes" is a little romantic acoustic ballad that showcases Foreman's whispering vocals and poetry styled writings. It's here where Winter begins to rekindle some of the magic of Fall.
"Somebody's Baby" may be the most emotional and tragic songs on either of Foreman's EPs to date. Playing out as the story of a homeless woman who's found solace in the bottom of a bottle, Foreman paints the unfortunate portrait of one of God's least of these from a different perspective - no matter how low someone's life may appear to descend, they're still someone's child, and still a human being. The heart-wrenching song is a standout indeed, but a tough listen due to its theme (And it will be worth a note to some that the song's opening verse features Jon singing, "She yells, 'if you were homeless, Sure as hell you'd be drunk." While there's a purpose to its context, the mild profanity is another example of a surprising trend to approve the inclusion of the word in more Christian market releases).
Foreman follows up the hopeless tale of "Somebody's Baby" with one of his most blatantly spiritual songs to date, the Psalm 51 inspired "White As Snow." The beautiful folk ballad uses subtle strings to compliment his acoustic as he prayerfully sings, "Have mercy on me, O God / According to Your unfailing love / According to Your great compassion / Blot out my transgressions / Would you create in me a clean heart O God? / Restore in me the joy of Your salvation..." Thematically, it's a wonderful match for a Winter feel, and serves as one of the strongest tracks on the EP. "I Am Still Running" is another highlight as Foreman incorporates a beat and claps into the song to compliment his pensive acoustic melody. It may even bear the closest resemblance to a Switchfoot track yet. Finally, Winter closes with "In Love," probably the project's most out of place track but also its most daring and experimental as Foreman's vocals take a back seat while an eastern-flavored acoustical tone takes prominence. The lyrics are a bit repetitive, but Foreman's approach is a poetic meditation on his love for God and his role as His child. It isn't the strongest end for the EP ("My Love Goes Free" was a more emotionally powerful finish on Fall), but it's further proof this underrated songwriter is not only versatile, but he isn't afraid of taking chances.
Jon Foreman may have not topped his inaugural solo release with Winter, but he continues to write songs that move the listener, as well as keep our anticipations high as Spring and Summer draw closer.- Review date: 1/13/08 by John DiBiase
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