Review Summary: Switchfoot show they have immense potential with Oh! Gravity. The album finds the band experimenting with different styles and feels while still creating enough catchy singles to keep their fanbase entertained.
One band that I’ve always enjoyed in mainstream rock ever since their breathtakingly catchy single Meant to Live
is Switchfoot. They themselves have never done anything too innovative, but they have a fantastic sound and great messages. Their style and beliefs are a break from the depressing, cliché relationship-based songs of today. But I'm not exactly sure why I decided to pick up Oh! Gravity. I liked their singles but I was never really compelled to buy an album. I hadn't even heard the lead single off of this. Remarkably, they took a step away from the commercial pressure of creating an album entirely of the sound people fell in love with a few years ago and created something special with Oh! Gravity.
No one would ever guess what a gem the album is from the title track lead single. Oh! Gravity.
is a well constructed pop rock song that is short and sweet. The verse is great, especially in vocalist Jon Foreman’s tone and the simple backing instrumentation. The chorus then enters a typical chord progression and that’s pretty much the entire song. What makes the song so catchy are the little nuances thrown in, such as the dissonant piano that transitions from chorus to verse or the faintly heard keyboard melody in the chorus. Of course, Switchfoot also throws in the “la la la” section at the end of the song that never fails to infect the listener's mind.
After hearing Oh! Gravity.
, I expected to find an album of similar songs, but only a few that were well executed. American Dream
solidified my beliefs with another poppier song, tagged with excellent rhyme schemes and an extremely catchy synth melody. But then Dirty Second Hands
came on, and I was floored with what Switchfoot could actually produce. This song will never find its way onto the airwaves, but it still stands out as one of the best on the album. It starts as a bluesy song in 5/4 with a great acoustic guitar riff. The chord progression is darker than anything Switchfoot has ever created before, and it is made even creepier with the sampled hyperventilation and strange handclaps. The song rapidly changes character into a heavier distorted chorus with hard hitting accents. As it grows throughout, Switchfoot changes the riff to how it would naturally sound, in a 6/4 beat instead. The contrast and the overall growth is something brand new and very much appreciated from Switchfoot.
Still, for most fans, Switchfoot’s music isn’t the foremost quality that they like. Adults and children alike have fallen in love with Foreman’s Christian ideals and how his lyrics speak beyond his own life and to the world. While many of the Christian lyricisms disappear on this album, he still writes lyrics that apply to the world today and its condition. Faust, Midas, and Myself
may be some of his greatest lyrical work yet, as he takes personal anecdotes and applies them to an uplifting and inspiring message. After describing a dream, he sings a chorus with a simple message: you only have one life on Earth. Make the best of it. Still, he creates a side message through the latter of the song, saying that money does not create happiness. He uses gold as a symbol for wealth, and finishes out the metaphor with “I wanted to wake up again without a touch of gold.” Musically, Faust, Midas, and Myself
is just as stellar. It features a full string section that adds a great amount of grandness and substance to the song. Still, Switchfoot stays true to their typical rock style and the string section is only used for effect, not as a main melody creator.
This is by no means a perfect album, though. While Switchfoot does step out of their shell on some songs, there are others that are just boring pop rock songs. Amateur Lovers
is the best example of this, with a simple chord progression and a boring lyrical concept. Foreman is obviously worse at writing about relationships as he turns out very vague lyrics. The song goes nowhere and there are no catchy hooks to save the song from its mediocre composition. Yesterdays
finds Switchfoot trying a softer, more Coldplay styled sound. While it is serene and calm, it drags on for too long with no growth or dynamics. Once again, Foreman's relationship-based lyrics are nothing special. Let Your Love Be Strong
is certainly the better quiet song, kept more concise and even calmer than Yesterdays
. It is based around an acoustic guitar riff, although the rest of the band adds in quickly. It reaches a climax with beautiful string swells and a small wind section. Being the end of the album, it makes a tapered ending that works extremely well.
Oh! Gravity. Is certainly an evolution for Switchfoot. They step out into new territories with the complex Dirty Second Hands
and the 5/8 groove of Circles
. With the help of some extra instrumentation, the album has plenty of variety to make the 45 minute album an easy listen. Still, Switchfoot aren't going to disappear from the mainstream spotlight, as there are plenty of good radio-friendly songs, including Awakening
and Burn Out Bright
. This is what mainstream rock could and should be.
Dirty Second Hands
Faust, Midas, and Myself
Let Your Love Be Strong