Between November of last year and June of this one, Switchfoot's Jon Foreman has released four season-themed EPs, titled Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer, respectively. While Switchfoot is known for their more sonic-fused, guitar-packed sound, these solo EPs showcased a softer, more organic side to Jon Foreman, not entirely unlike the earlier days of the band. Call it stripped-down acoustic, call it folk, call it Americana… the undeniable fact was that these efforts were a breath of fresh air, and deserving of all the praise they received. (For full reviews of all four, check out Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer)
Now, just under a year after releasing the first of the series, we are treated to a mostly unnecessary "fan favorites" album (to replace the two EP sets at retail), appropriately titled Limbs and Branches. Foreman allowed listeners to pick their favorites, and then he spruced up the list to make it more concise and balanced (In its final form, the disc includes two songs each from Fall, Spring, and Winter, and four from Summer). The real draw for this disc's target audience, though, will be the two new tracks included, "Broken from the Start" and "Over the River."
Limbs and Branches serves its purpose well. It showcases some of the finest that the four EPs had to offer, with little room for fault. Sure, it can always be said "Well, why wasn't this one included?" or "How did that one make the cut, and this one did not?" But when it comes down to it, this is essentially a fan favorite's record, so a margin for error is minimized. "Your Love Is Strong" wisely begins the project, and all of the essential bases are covered from there ("Instead of a Show," "Learning How to Die," "A Mirror Is Harder to Hold," etc).
The two new tracks included are nice complements to the rest of the album, but arguably do not stand on their own. In other words, Foreman fans that buy Limbs and Branches simply for these new recordings probably will not be disappointed, but neither will they be exceptionally impressed. It, perhaps, lends itself the fact that these new tracks have no encompassing idea in which to wrap themselves. There is no central idea or mood, a quality from which the rest of these recordings have benefited. Still, with repeated listens, their appeal grows infinitely, especially the album closer, "Over the River."
When it is all said and done, even though this is a nice, concise overview of exceptional music released over the last eleven months, you would still be much better off just picking up all four EPs and calling it a day. Limbs and Branches accomplishes its purpose and holds the distinction of being one of the finer, most complete-sounding compilations to be released this year, but it still just cannot replace the real thing. Die hards will want the new songs, but for all others, stick with the four seasons.- Review date: 10/26/08, written by Josh Taylor
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