Switchfoot – Nothing Is Sound

By Michael Mayer III on October-20-2009 | Filed under Reviews | Tags : | Share

Switchfoot – Nothing Is Sound
Score: 5/5Score: 5/5Score: 5/5Score: 5/5Score: 5/55
3.6 (14 votes)

Artist: Switchfoot
Album: Nothing Is Sound
Label: Columbia Records
Release Date: September 13, 2005
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. Lonely Nation 
  2. Stars 
  3. Happy Is a Yuppie Word
  4. The Shadow Proves the Sunshine 
  5. Easier Than Love 
  6. The Blues 
  7. The Setting Sun 
  8. Politicians 
  9. Golden 
  10. The Fatal Wound 
  11. We Are One Tonight
  12. Daisy

This one’s a grower. Whatever you do, don’t form an opinion after the first couple spins or you’ll miss out on a classic release from Switchfoot. Now, I can understand how some people may be turned off of Nothing Is Sound since it’s not as accessible as its predecessor, which was catchy and infectious. However, if you give this enough spins you’ll find it’s just as addictive. For instance, The Beautiful Letdown is known for it’s soaring vocal hooks and memorable guitar riffs fit for an arena. Here there are still great riffs (‘Politicians’ anyone?), but the ‘arena rock’ melodies are not as rampant and there is a greater focus on capturing a mood for a song that reflects the lyrics. With the addition of touring guitarist, Drew Shirley, the band is now complete and have crafted their most complex set of songs to date.

One thing that did stay the same, aside from the signature Switchfoot sound, is the variety of different sounding tracks. The ballads aren’t your typical set of ballads as ‘The Blues’ shows with its etheral guitars and perfect beat to carry Jon’s passionate voice. ‘The Shadow Proves the Sunshine’ is elegantly poetic musically as much as it is lyrically (truly a brilliant line in the title). The simple drum beat perfectly compliments the backing piano. Even the rockers don’t sound ordinary as ‘Happy Is a Yuppie Word’ is every bit as odd as the song title. The synths play a large role in giving the song a unique touch and Jon’s screaming of ‘Nothing Is Sound!’ at the end is perfect. And while the arena rock vocals may be gone there are strong melodies everywhere. ‘Politicians’ is the heaviest track with some killer riffs leading the way and a brief guitar solo near the end. It’s capped off by his vocal work to make the song truly stand out.

Lyrically, this is Jon Foreman’s masterpiece and you can tell Switchfoot have become more socially aware. I could write a whole essay on the brilliance of the lyrics and it still wouldn’t do this album justice. Even with a heightened social awareness and overall darker tone than ever before, they still show their beliefs. It’s just not as much of a focus as in the past. There is a message of hope through it all so in a sense they are the anti-Radiohead. You won’t be depressed about the state of the world after you listen to the album.

For example, ‘Happy Is a Yuppie Word’ starts off with a cynical view of society with:

Everything fails
Everything runs it’s course
A time and a place, for all of this loving war
Everyone buys, everyone’s gotta price, and nothing is new
When will all the failures rise

But then by the end of the song there is a message of looking for more and knowing it’s out there:

Looking for an orphanage
I’m looking for a bridge I can’t burn down
I don’t believe the emptiness
I’m looking for the kingdom coming down
Everything is meaningless
I want more than simple cash can buy

They are taking the opportunity to reach out and make a statement about what they see going on around them without being pushy about it. Whether they are singing with the cynical view of how sex appeal is used in the world and how humanity would rather take the easy way out, giving in to its lucid nature (‘Easier to Love’), or the state of politics that causes a division in society, Switchfoot have a lot to say.

However, for every song that touches on the negative there’s one more to lift your spirits. ‘Golden’ is sung about someone who has nothing left to give and is struggling to find more meaning to their life than just being another ordinary person. The chorus works as a reply to how that person feels much in the same way I imagine God would. It’s immediately uplifting and I don’t know how to explain it, but the way Jon sings it helps a great deal. This song also has one of my favorite lines that I find to be true in a way: ‘The more we learn the less we know’.

Of course, a review would not be complete for this album if it didn’t mention the best closing song they’ve ever written. ‘Daisy’ is a somber track headed by acoustic guitars and sweeping string arrangements at first before the full band explodes in and Jon’s angst takes over. I have never heard him hit this level of intensity as when he screams ‘Let it go’ over and over. The melodies remind me of The Beatles, especially during the chorus, and they pull out all the stops for the final conclusion of a phenomenal album.

Overall: Switchfoot have reinforced my thinking that they are one of the best bands of the decade and aren’t content with staying put musically. I can count on them to put out a fresh product with new tweaks to their sound, always pushing it to another level. There’s that saying, ‘Don’t always judge a book by it’s cover’, which rings true with music sometimes but instead it’s, ‘Don’t judge an album by your initial impressions’. When music has depth, it takes awhile to realize it. Once I did I found that Nothing Is Sound is not only one of their best albums, but one of the best this decade. Lay aside what you think you know about this band and listen with an open mind. This isn’t an album full of singles so much as a complete work of art that can’t be cut up into bits and pieces. It needs to be experienced as a whole.

Gems of this album are: ‘Lonely Nation’, ‘Happy Is a Yuppie Word’, ‘The Blues’, ‘The Shadow Proves the Sunshine’, ‘Daisy’, (or just the whole album)

[Myspace] [Buy It! ]

Switchfoot - Nothing Is Sound, 3.6 out of 5 based on 14 ratings

Click here to list all the current reviews by Michael Mayer III

35 Responses to 'Switchfoot – Nothing Is Sound'

  1. Korman says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with this review. The first time i listened to the album i wasn’t that into it. I grabbed it off the shelf a couple months ago after seeing them live and realized just how good this album is.

  2. Jeanna says:

    I love your reviews, and not just because you always write my exact opinion. I had the same experience as Korman, I shelved the album after I first got it, but when I picked it up a few months later I was hooked. I think I listened to it every day for a year. Truly, one of Switchfoot’s finest works.

  3. I pretty much did the same. I listened to it about ten times when I got it and put it in my CD case without touching it for awhile. Then after a couple months passed I went back to it and fell in love. I’ve found that those that say it’s boring or hate it either weren’t much of a fan of Switchfoot to begin with or simply haven’t given it enough time because it didn’t have that shiny polished feel of The Beautiful Letdown. Either that or they have a grudge against Switchfoot for breaking out into the mainstream and now claim they are useless.

  4. Kyle (imprezagm4) says:

    Did anyone instantly think of “Son I Loved You at Your Darkest” when you saw this album cover?

  5. I wouldn’t say instantly but some of the colors are similar. The tree in the background cover is pretty common and this actually reminds me of Shinedown’s first album cover. Different colors but same idea. This came out the same year as that fantastic As Cities Burn album too. :-D

  6. 7red7burns7august7 says:

    the only album from them i like or really listened to. the disappointing thing is the cd i got will not burn onto the computer- the disc is weird

  7. 7red, it has a copyright thing on it. I’ll see if I can find a link but there’s a workaround you can use to get the CD onto your computer. I had to do that when I wanted it in iTunes since iTunes wouldn’t burn it. If I remember correctly, Tim or one of the band members was so upset about this problem that they posted the work around on their website. They really took it to Sony on that failed experiment, hah.

    Edit: Here you go, http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070209105614AASEWsM

    • 7red7burns7august7 says:

      thanks for informing me. As of today i know the reason why to that bizarre mystery that i could never figure out. and that’s lame. thats the only cd that was like that that iv ever owned.

  8. Job says:

    Finally. a reviewer that understands the true brilliance of this record. Thank you. Thank you! thank you. :)

  9. losemyself4good says:

    i totally agree with this review and with Job. i’ve been reading all of these reviews in this series and im ecstatic to finally find a reviewer who actually understands the guys. i think that NIS is my favorite album by them so far, and actually, HH seems like it might be in the same vein in a sense. like the idea that it is best listened to as a whole album rather than as individual songs. i in no way mean to detract from the songs themselves as i find that songs like politicians, setting sun, and daisy are some of my favorite tunes by them to date. however, i do feel the need to point out the missing We Are One Tonight mention. i think that this is one of the catchiest songs and also a massive crowd pleaser live so i kinda missed it in the review. i guess however, it may fall into the same category as This is Your Life in the review of TBL. anyways, great review! waiting for the next one.

  10. Tim says:

    This record truly did put me off Switchfoot. And I gave it numerous listens. I still listen to it now and again just in case it suddenly attracts me again. I must admit though, I love the track ‘Politicians’. But that’s about it. In my opinion, ‘Daisy’ is the worst album closer on a CD I own.

    I enjoy ‘The Beautiful Letdown’ a lot more but only because the lyrics mean more to me, not because it was more successful in the mainstream. I just haven’t listened to anything they’ve released since ‘Nothing is Sound’ because I didn’t enjoy it. I love Jon Foreman’s solo albums though.

  11. Well Tim, you should give Oh! Gravity a try seeing as it’s not much like NIS. And definitely give Hello Hurricane a try when it comes out because it’s most similar to TBL lyrically. Musically it’s not much like anything they’ve done to this point though.

  12. Tim says:

    I’d love to give them a try because I respect Jon Foreman so much but I haven’t got enough money and I don’t like illegally downloading things. If I’m lucky I might try Hello Hurricane, but I’m a bit short at the moment.

  13. Of the two that you have yet to listen to I’d suggest Hello Hurricane if you have the cash. You’d stand the greatest chance of liking that one.

  14. NeedleGirl says:

    Thanks so much for these Switchfoot reviews! I have enjoyed them so much, and am really looking forward to the O!G and HH ones. As for NIS, it is definitely my very favorite album of all time! I LOVE Shadow Proves the Sunshine, and Daisy has come to mean a lot to me lately. I could listen to this CD constantly (and i pretty much do) and never tire of it. At least until I hear HH, this album ranks first in my book!

  15. John Wayne says:

    I pretty much agree with what Tim said, only I’ve never been super huge into this band. Still, I’m gonna buy Hello Hurricane with fingers crossed that it’ll be like the Swtichfoot I enjoy, not the Switchfoot that put out this album.

    Never listened to Gravity, so I’ll be interested in reading the next review.

  16. Out of curiousity John, why don’t you like this album? Of course you say you aren’t really into the band but can we at least agree that lyrically the content on here is pretty strong? It’s by far their strongest virtue and the honesty of Jon Foreman is unmatched in Christian music.

  17. NeedleGirl says:

    I already voiced my own opinions about this controversial (yet amazing) album, but I thought I’d add a little more … quoting Jon himself.

    “You can tell a really good joke, but if people don’t get it, you can’t explain it. I feel much more like an archeologist than an inventor. I’m not the guy who tinkers in my workshop all day long in an attempt to achieve a goal. I have no preconceived notion when I write a song. All I do is dig. And you discover a city that’s been there all along. Those are the good days, you know, where songs just come to you. I can’t look at the dig that happened for Nothing Is Sound and be self-critical.

    I feel like there were a lot of things that needed to find the surface that maybe were uncomfortable for people. But I feel like those were

  18. That’s a pretty cool quote NeedleGirl. I think I’ve read it before but I like the hamburger analogy (aside from it making me insanely hungry as lunch time approaches) and I’m glad he the band are willing to try different things. It certainly shows in this album.

  19. Adam says:

    These reviews seem very biased.. at least in the scores.

  20. schlottermann says:

    Shouldn’t the scores reflect the review? I think they match according to the reviewer’s telling of the album.

  21. Adam, that’s kind of the whole point… I’m not scoring for you or for the readers on the site. I’m scoring according to what I feel about the album and that is shown in the writing. Reviews are personal opinion you know…

  22. Tim says:

    And, fortunately, the 10/10 rating on this site doesn’t reflect a ‘perfect’ album but just that when it was released it was an ‘album of the year’ contender.

    To be honest, reviews and scores will never satisfy everyone because taste and opinions are subjective.

  23. A 10/10 doesn’t ‘just’ mean an album of the year candidate for that year. The scoring description also says it’s considered a classic. When I release my ‘Best albums of the 2000’s’ list at the end of the year you better believe this one (and any others I’ve given a 10) will be on that list. That’s how I feel about the album.

    Tim’s right on that last part though. I gave the score and backed it up with writing. Whether or not you agree is your opinion and you’d give it a score that reflects that. Unfortunately a lot of people here would rather bash people’s opinions instead of backing their opinion up with their own reasons. We’re all for constructive criticism here so long as you do it in a tasteful matter that isn’t ripping someone apart in derogatory ways. Simply saying ‘This band sucks’ or ‘This album sucks’ is rather elementary.

    Note: I know no one did that in this discussion but I see it a lot in others so I’m just doing a general reply here, not at someone.

  24. NeedleGirl says:

    ok, so based on the last comment, my opinion was rather elementary and not backed up very well – so i am going to try again …
    I do love this album, but that is because it has helped me so much. I have found so much meaning in these songs, so much hidden wisdom, and so much inspiration. These songs cheer me up. These songs focus my thoughts. These songs help me to live.

  25. NeedleGirl says:

    hehe, i did not mean to end right there (though it was pretty dramatic, wasnt it?) … i accidentally pushed “enter” to go to another paragraph, and that posted it before i could finish. anyway, i believe that God uses different means to help different people. He just happened to have used music – especially switchfoot songs – to help me and many other people. it doesn’t mean these songs are for everyone. still, i think everyone can appreciate good music and at least respect the band because of it.

  26. Erm, I wasn’t talking to you NeedleGirl and I don’t think anyone else was either. I was only talking about people who simply bash a band or album by saying it ‘sucks’ and don’t explain why they think so. You explained why you enjoy the album with a paragraph way back in your first comment.

  27. John Wayne says:

    Cause I fall into the category the first 2 sentence denounce. A friend of mine bought the album when it came out, we listened to it on the ride back to campus. I hated it, barely listened to it one more time I believe.

    Despite the cool quote from Foreman, if you tell a joke no one gets, you’re not a good comedian. If most of your customers want a hamburger and you give them whatever food is equivalent of “Nothing is Sound” fans will stop eating at your restaurant. That’s to be expected. If he wanted to take Switchfoot in a deeper direction, its his right to do so though. I just felt like they were lyrically deep enough on the first 4 albums, but the music lost its edge with this release.

    I assume this is your favorite Switch album MM3?

    Foreman’s honesty is top notch, but no more potent than say Owen from The Elms.

  28. Nah, no one here was really doing the bashing. It has happened elsewhere though but not by you. You always backup your opinion. :-P

    I fully understand this album isn’t for everyone. Oh! Gravity is kind of the same way and both of them are my favorite Switchfoot albums. Just a ‘to each his own’ sort of thing I guess. The earlier albums were more raw and lighthearted and these are more polished (producton wise) sounding with a dark, gritty vibe to them.

  29. John Wayne says:

    So what do you thing of the new one, that is the ultimate question.

    I know, I know, Oh! Gravity is next but it’s merely penultimate. I am heavily considering giving Switchfoot a new lease on space in my collection, but only with the new one.

  30. NeedleGirl says:

    MM3 – i realize that you had not been talking to/about me, but i still felt like i could explain myself and my opinions better than i had :)

  31. You keep trying to coax me into giving that up but I can’t. It’ll kill any suspense and hype I may have going into that last review. :-P

    You’ll still get the review a week before release so you’ll have time to mull it over. Judging by what you’ve said about a few of these Switchfoot albums I’d say the new one should be right up your alley. It’s got more in common with their first four releases than their last two I’d say, though its still a new direction for the band and the beginning of another new chapter.

  32. Tim says:

    Just listened to this album again. It’s better than I thought but I cannot forgive that last track. For me it ruins the whole album. You cannot have such an uninspiring song at the end of an album. I also don’t like the ‘Happy is a yuppie word’ song. But either way, it’s a bit better than I thought it was. And I knew all the words. Did not realise that!

  33. Haha Tim, you must’ve listened to it more than you thought. That’s cool that you enjoyed it a bit more. i don’t know how you can find Daisy uninspired but oh well. I love the quirkiness of ‘Happy Is a Yuppie Word’.

  34. Nate IVM says:

    This is prolly my least favorite album of theirs.

Comments closed.

SEARCH

HOT RIGHT NOW

Exclusive: A Common Goal – Where Do We Go

Exclusive: False Idle – The Cavalry

Exclusive: Harbor and Home Music Video Premiere

Exclusive: The Beautiful Discord Music Video Premiere

Exclusive: BoughtXBlood Releases Music Video for “Restoration”

RECENT COMMENTS

REVIEWS | INTERVIEWS

IVM POLL

  • Favorite Recent Review at IVM (from list provided)

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...
  • Polls Archive