January 14, 2019 Switchfoot – Native Tongue (Album Review)
From the ones who brought us the best summer hits of 2003 with “Meant To Live” and “Dare You To Move,” Switchfoot have been giving their listeners’ uplifting and inspiring motivation for nearly twenty years. Despite often being vastly underrated, the San Diego band showcases why they are so good with their newest record, Native Tongue set for release on Friday, January 18th through Fantasy Records.
A band built on integrity, throughout the years, the band has bounced between labels, trying to find the right outlet. Their 1997 debut, The Legend of Chin, gained a following, but it was not until 3 records in they broke the scene with a feature in the 2002 film A Walk To Remember, becoming a household name. Furthermore, a Grammy was awarded to the band in 2011 for their seventh studio album, Hello Hurricane, as Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album as they have also been awarded numerous Dove and San Diego Music awards.
Always challenging themselves along the way, Switchfoot’s steady discography shows they are here for the love of music. Switchfoot is about different ways to approach life and music, and they never fail to do so. On their eleventh overall studio album, the 14 songs mark the sufferings and everything in between. The overall path of the album begins with letting down their defenses and searching for meaning. This in mind, there is a magical intro to “Let It Happen” that is met with heavy electric guitar, tall drums, and angelic-like background vocals. This is before the title-track “Native Tongue,” a song which was released with the album announcements to drive the excitement. A wise choice, it perfectly conveys the overall theme of the album. Witty snapping is creatively out of scope for Switchfoot and the gritty, echoing vocals almost put out an Imagine Dragons vibe.
Then there is “All I Need,” a song which recognizes the road may get lonely throughout this walk in life. Strong acoustic guitar put off a Tom Petty “Free Fallin”” feeling, a vibrant contrast from the previous track. The Pop Rock ballad is a mixed ball of melancholy and feel-goods that will make you want to sway with lighters in the air. It is about feeling so small in the world but almost in a peaceful sense. It is about not finding meaning in all the wrong things, and finding an oasis to help go through said walk of life.
But everything isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, is it? Thinking about this a moment, the most striking track, “Voices” is a perfect depiction of mental instability or un-wellness that can occur. An electronic beat with synths illustrate a haunting intro as Lead Vocalist Jon Foreman describes the troubles of carrying voices in his head and the storms he has been fighting. The confession in “Prodigal Soul” share the rawest vocals on the record as Foreman details chasing after ghosts and dreaming of forgiveness.
One of the hardest parts in forgiveness is forgiving oneself and “The Strength To Let Go” recognizes the war within and shares the process of remembering it’s all out of your hands. Often very true, Switchfoot continue to excel at creating a feeling with their music. This feeling is ever so evident on “Oxygen,” a composition that could make you believe you are weightless, floating through space without any constraints of time. The airy atmosphere creates an image like you are truly running out of oxygen, but not in the sharp, scary way like you are choking. Leading into “We’re Gonna Be Alright,” the feel-good summer camp track is a hymn that lets you know just that – we are going to be alright.
From the jamboree in “Dig New Streams” to the angsty “Take My Fire,” Native Tongue is music for the thinkers. With complex layers that almost sound like film scores and the diversity of sound throughout, this record takes it back to how it all began for the band. Though that may scare some listeners off, the messages are done tastefully, inspiring, kind, and considerate. After all, our native tongue should be love. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Native Tongue 4 out of 5 stars.
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