Review Summary: An improvement over "Nothing is Sound" and a new direction for Switchfoot. They diversify their own genre and still come together more as a band. Their songs feature more of the band on every track. Jon's lyrics again provide social and individual comment
Let me first state that I pre-ordered the CD from their live show in St. Paul a few months ago and I am listening to it right now as I review it. I will listen to the album and rate it entirely on a 1st impression basis, then hopefully in a week or so after it had time to sink in, I'll come back and edit the review with updated opinions. Due to the nature of doing the review this way, I’m going to do it track by track and then a general synopsis at the end.
Track 1: Oh! Gravity (2:30)
If you've listened to the radio or MTV lately you've already heard this. In case you haven’t... it starts out with some great riffs and builds some momentum to kick the album off. The rhythm is catchy and will obviously be a success at their live shows. The lyrics are inspired and well formed. I LOVE the part where the band cuts out and Jerome just bangs the piano. Fits nicely into the whole "Keep it together" motif. This is new Switchfoot and it shows the band doing what they do best, jamming and having a good time together. The full ensemble is featured completely here.
4.5 / 5
Track 2: American Dream (3:09)
I heard this song live and it was one of the songs that I walked out of the show singing. I loved it and it rocks live. Anyway. The lyrics here are catchy and politically oriented like "Politicians" from "Nothing is Sound". Similar formula here. Chad really brings the drums out on this song. Something I think was lacking a bit from previous albums (maybe). The backup vocals are a nice touch and the guitars are definitely the high point of the song. Jon does a bit of screaming towards the end and it works perfectly. Bass lines are a little lacking, but that could be because I'm on a laptop.
4 / 5
Track 3: Dirty Second Hands (3:16)
Again, they played this live and it was awesome. Starts out with a great little riff on a clean guitar. The first thing I liked about this song was the rhythm. I don't have a good enough ear, to tell, but the song sounds like they kept it minor all the way through. The clapping is fun and adds a new dimension to the song. I like the short bits where it breaks down and goes to the band rocking out. The drumming really makes this song, in my opinion. Again, it's probably my speakers, but I'm not hearing much from Tim? I can't say enough for this track, I loved it from the moment I heard the first guitar.
5 / 5
Track 4: Awakening (4:08)
Track begins with Jon singing into his guitar and what you hear is his voice coming out of it on the other end. The lyrics are the highlight here. I can finally notice Tim! Ahhhh, the chorus... beautiful... reminds me of "We are One Tonight" from Nothing is sound. I love it! The guitar work is fun and catchy. I love the difference between the full band on the chorus and the basic drum and Jon singing the verses with a simple guitar to fill the dead space. Jon's voice always seems to break at the right place.
5 / 5
Track 5: Circles (4:06)
I love how this one starts out; mellow, with lyrics that flow right in. It just builds right into the chorus so well you almost forget how mellow it starts. This song plays with dynamics a lot. Jon uses his voice in his guitar like he did on Awakening and it’s a nice effect. "Circles" doesn't immediately remind me of anything previously from Switchfoot, which is nice. The mix of clean and distorted guitars throughout the song along with the 'chanting' at the end is hypnotic.
3.5 / 5
Track 6: Amateur Lovers (4:36)
Fun guitar riffs and catchy lyrics abound. I love the commentary it makes on relationships. Jon's lyrics always are to the point and he sings the emphasis that we all think. "We don't know what we’re doing! Let's do it again" sung in a manner that fits the sentence perfectly? I don't really know how to describe I guess. This song has a live feel, reminds me of both of the shows I went to. In the way his voice breaks and the "antics" the band does, whispering, singing away from the mic, and straight up talking to the audience...
3.5 / 5
Track 7: Faust, Midas and Myself
Where to start with this track? I love this is probably my favorite track on the album. The lyrics are beautiful. Simply put. I love the way this song is put together. There isn't really a chorus. The song plays as one long verse basically. It builds and climaxes with "Life begins at the intersection". The band comes together beautifully and plays into all of their skills. I believe this to be Switchfoot at their best.
5 / 5
Track 8: Head Over Heels (In This Life) (3:41)
I don't really know how I feel about this song. My mind is still wrapped around the last song. This song is great, to be sure. The song builds for an abrupt intro before heading into lyrics. This song is inspired and brings them all together again. The lyrics are not moving but not captivating?
3.5 / 5
Track 9: Yesterdays (4:05)
Jon's singing is awesome in this one. I love how his voice wanders around instead of going straight to the important notes and sustaining them like in all of his other songs. This song slows the album down and has almost a Coldplay sound to it. It’s not as stripped down as 24 or Daisy from previous albums, but it affected me the same way. It’s moving.
4 / 5
Track 10: Burn out Bright (3:24)
I don't really know what to make of this song. I can't decide if I like it or not. It is the weakest track on the album so far. I like the sustained tones in the background, and the background voices. I think those are the highlights of the song. The background is the relevant part of the song, not particularly the verses. I liked the lyrics to be sure, but I appreciated the rest of the band more on this song.
3 / 5
Track 11: 4:12 (4:12)
I have to wonder if that was intentional. This sounds like filler material to me. Nothing really to see here. Not very bad per se, but not up to the caliber of previous songs. Its somewhere along the same lines as Burn out Bright. I think I appreciate the bands' music more than the lyrics. I think this might be one of those tracks that has to grow on me. There is too much going on in this song at times (the last minute). This might be really fun live though?
3? / 5 not really sure how I feel about this one
Track 12: Let Your Love Be Strong (3:48)
Aha! I was worried there might not be a track like "24" or "Daisy" on this album. This is Jon showing off. I personally enjoy songs that don't follow particular rhyming schemes, this song seems to just flow out of him and drift with how he feels like playing this guitar. It’s hypnotic. When the guitar backgrounds come in, it turns it into a song that reverberates in your head. Even my laptop speakers sound good with this. This is beautiful. I cannot say enough for this track. I don't know if it gets me in the same way as "24" but it definitely finds its place.
5 / 5
So, on the whole this hour of music very enjoyable. I think that as a successor to "Nothing is Sound" this album fills everything that could be desired. It has live written all over it. The band has really come together on this album. If "Nothing is Sound" was imperfect at all this album fixes what was wrong and develops them into a more rounded band. You can tell they have had their heads next to the radio. They knew what we wanted to hear and gave it to us, while still moving ahead. Tracks to check out: Dirty Second Hands, Awakening, Faust Midas and Myself. I'm going to give this album a chance to grow on me, more. I may reverse some of my opinions upon later review...