Since their debut in 1997, singer/songwriter Jon Foreman has used Switchfoot as an outlet for his doubts, fears, struggles, joys, pains, triumphs, and sorrows. Where Foreman has written nearly countless songs during the time the band began, only so many have fit on a "Switchfoot" project. Even through the vehicle of a band, Foreman has released several beautiful, poignant acoustic tracks - from the likes of "Let That Be Enough" to "Only Hope," and even to more recent offerings like "Revenge" and "24." For the first time, however, Foreman is releasing four solo EP's, each named for a different season of the year, all to be released within the next year.
The first release, Fall, aims to capture the mood of the season, bearing a consistent melancholy and pensive feel throughout. Foreman's tired and emotive vocals are a perfect fit while the music remains rather simplistic but flavorful from song to song. "The Cure For Pain" is an inspired choice to welcome the listener to Foreman's own personal musings. He admits right off the bat, "I've spent ten years singing gravity away," setting the stage for a slew of brutal honesty to follow in the songs ahead. "Southbound Train" utilizes a harmonica and strings to simulate the sounds of a locomotive as he sings about being away from home and where it takes him. As he likens the scenery he sees to that of his wife, it's evident that these songs are considerably more mature than those first heard on The Legend Of Chin a decade ago. Then just starting his twenties, now having entered his thirties, it's a much different world for the songwriter as so much has changed for him in these years.
"Lord, Save Me From Myself" is a beautiful folk ballad that picks up momentum as it progresses, displaying a heartfelt confession of soul searching and frustration with the world that also serves as a prayer, "My eyes have seen the glory / Of this hollow modern shell / And sex is a grand production / But I'm bored with that as well / Ah, Lord save me from myself." "Equally Skilled" is a folksy glimpse at the sins of man as well as the greatness of God, while "The Moon Is A Magnet" is a tender little love theme that thoughtfully pairs Foreman's voice with an acoustic and a bass clarinet. One of the EP's highlights and probably the most sensitive track on the release is the final track, "My Love Goes Free." As a heartbreaking piano ballad, Foreman stretches the limits of his voice in a way he hasn't really done before, utilizing a falsetto to help tug at the listener's emotions. The lyrics are rather cryptic, and when Foreman sings verses like, "'If you love her let her go.' / She's beautifully composed / A tune that only caged birds know / My love goes free...," it is likely to spark interest as to what inspired his words.
Jon Foreman is one of the great songwriters of our day linked to the Christian music industry. Underrated when it comes to accolades, Foreman consistently knows how to keep his subject matter relevant, personal, honest, and sometimes even fun, without ever straying from being genuine. His Fall EP will be most appreciated by his adult and longtime fans, with the music being a departure from most of what Switchfoot has released, while lyrically it takes the listener to a place Foreman doesn't usually let the fans of his San Diego-based band see all too often. It's a frail, delicate project without much that's positive or uplifting, but instead aims for consistent introspection, beauty, and honesty, and for the most part, reaches it each time. With three more of these EP's on the horizon, it'll be exciting to see where Jon Foreman takes our hearts next in the coming changing seasons.- Review date: 11/21/07 by John DiBiase
Winter EP Review
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.
Fall/Winter is an eclectic journey of diverse acoustic and folk stylings. Jon Foreman proves his worth as a singer/songwriter, only further solidifying his value as both. Those looking for fun pop tunes can look at any number of Switchfoot's releases, but Foreman taps into the more frail elements of human nature and the spiritual realm on his solo material. Spring and Summer should be worth the wait...- Review date: 1/13/08 by John DiBiase
Record Label: Credential Recordings
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