Switchfoot's evolution has been a slow, but steady one. In the past decade, they've established a consistent sound while continuing to innovate and grow with each album. There's a noticeable transition between the raw, garage band flavor of 1997's The Legend of Chin and their major label, post-Beautiful Letdown pop rock, but the heart of the band hasn't changed.
After the mixed effort that was 2006's Oh! Gravity, another chapter in the Switchfoot legacy came to a close. The band announced a parting with Sony to go independent, built their own studio, and took their time touring, writing, and working on their seventh studio release. Needless to say, anticipation has been running quite high for Switchfoot fans since then. Well, it's time to say Hello Hurricane. Switchfoot is back, with quite possibly one of their best records yet.
Switchfoot continues to make solid albums that have a distinctive "Switchfoot sound," but they still progress in an ever-so-subtle way. For this project, they return to high energy rock and roll roots that sound great without being over-produced. The lead single "Mess of Me" is raw and alive with frantic energy, with a crunchy guitar riff that recalls The White Stripes before dropping into a wailing blues bridge. "The Sound" is a fist-pumping rock anthem with a bass-heavy, Led Zeppelin feel. "Free" mixes in a layer of strings for dramatic effect, and "Bullet Soul" is a catchy rock tune that is the pure Switchfoot fun we've come to know and love.
There are the rock anthems too, the kind of music that makes you feel good to be alive. Album opener "Needle and Haystack Life" pulses and soars; "Hello Hurricane" sounds like shouting into a storm. And as always, there are calming ballads to balance it out, worshipful moments that remind me of the songs from Jon Foreman's solo EPs. "Always" stands out as a quiet song of surrender and praise in a world of joy and pain. "Sing It Out" begins with a moody wash of ambient sounds, strings, and quiet vocals before building to a full band crescendo that cries, "Sing it out / I can't find the words to sing / Come be my remedy."
For the past few albums, Switchfoot seemed almost stuck in a lyrical loop, lamenting consumerism and greed ad nauseum, now and then dipping into politics, and always longing to live for something more. Thankfully, Hello Hurricane doesn't take this path again, but instead turns mourning into hope. That's not to say the fallen condition is no longer addressed-- "Mess of Me" doesn't hesitate to declare "I am my own affliction / I am my own disease... there ain't no drug to make me well." -- but this time, the songs keep coming back to love and hope. "I got doors and windows boarded up / All your dead end fury is not enough / You can't silence my love," as the title track says; it's the antithesis to the darkness within, and it sounds like refreshing, defiant joy set to music.
I could highlight my favorite tracks, but really, it's near impossible. Every song has its own memorable element, whether a standout musical turn or a lyric that suddenly jumps out after many listens. It's a solid album from start to finish - twelve amazing songs that remind me why I fell for Switchfoot's music in the first place. Take the subtly spiritual lyrics from their early best, the hooky song strength of The Beautiful Letdown, and the diverse musical atmosphere of Nothing is Sound, mix them up with a little bit of something new, and you might have Hello Hurricane.
This is a must-have for long-time Switchfoot fans (even those jaded by the mainstream years), a great album for rock lovers that want something uplifting, fun, and deep, and a great introduction for someone who hasn't really listened to Switchfoot yet. A strong release from start to finish, Hello Hurricane is worth returning to again and again.- Review date: 11/8/09, written by Jen Rose of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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