Album Review :
Jon Foreman - Spring EP

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Artist: Jon Foreman
Album “Spring Summer”
Label: Credential Recordings
Review by: Sam E
Track Listing:

1. March (A Prelude to Spring)
2. Love Isn’t Made
3. In My Arms
4. Baptize My Mind
5. Your Love Is Strong
6. Revenge

Folks that have followed Jon Foreman’s work since the first Switchfoot album came out in 1997 have long been aware of the fact that he is a brilliant songwriter. Jon has always seemed able to deftly pen a song or ballad that both provokes the muse in all of us, and also cuts deep to the heart and soul.
With the release of his first EP “Fall,” last autumn, it became apparent that Jon’s talents go beyond the lyrics, and extend to truly innovative and probing instrumentation. From the opening chords of “Cure for the Pain” to the lingering falsetto lines of “My Love Goes Free,” it was clear that Jon Foreman’s solo work would find a stable position in the good graces of fans and critics alike. Turns out “Fall” did pretty well on the digital charts too, scaling iTunes’ best-selling albums list to clear the top 10 the first week of release. Jon’s second EP, “Winter” was fittingly bleak and melancholy, containing the painfully beautiful highlight “Somebody’s Baby”, a song which AbsolutePunk argued would be hard for ANY band or artist to top in ’08. Strong words for an album released in the first calendar month!

Now comes “Spring,” the third of the four promised seasonal EPs. For a songwriter as prolific as Foreman, the question never was, “could he write enough songs?” but rather, how would the solo work of the frontman for the dynamic rock group–Switchfoot–translate to the intimate setting of a mostly acoustic-based musical endeavor? More than that, the EPs are seasonal, a distinction which Jon takes seriously. The titles “Fall,” “Winter,” “Spring,” and “Summer,” are more than names; they set the thematic and musical tone for their respective albums.

I think “Spring” is Foreman’s most ambitious EP yet. In recent years, his songwriting has taken on a bleaker tone (one need only look at the track-listings of the last two Switchfoot records to know what I mean). “Spring” is quite a mood shift from the first two EPs, and the instrumentation reflects this wonderfully. From the opening bars of the first track (“March – A prelude to Spring”) you will realize you are being treated to some of the best the indie music scene has to offer: honest, intelligent lyricism enhanced by a lush backdrop of graceful guitar chords and up-beat brass. There is a hint of the style of Beirut in this track, a style which complements Jon’s distinctly rugged vocals.

The theme of “love” runs strong throughout this EP – as a record about life should. As Jon has often explored through Switchfoot, he again delves into the ways in which we’ve bought and sold our love like a commodity (in “Love Isn’t Made”), removing the intangibles and making it a stale commercial exchange. As in the past two EPs, Jon is not afraid to take his voice to the next level, hitting high notes with more ease in “Spring” than he has in the past. Still, the emotive power of Jon’s singing is best experienced when he softly croons a love song like he’s whispering into his beloved’s ear (a la “In My Arms”).

“Baptize my mind” will doubtless remind listeners of a more stripped-down Sufjan Stevens song, but it is the message of spiritual regeneration that propels this song. Jon makes the listener pause, think, and then go “aaaah!” with smiling admiration when lines like “for these seeds to give birth to life, first they must die” grace the ears.

My favorite track is the enduring “Your Love Is Strong,” a song that Switchfoot fans have long awaited. For a EP that is full of words sung, whispered, breathed, and crooned to a human lover, it is very refreshing to see Jon sing this – the arguably best love song on the record – to his Heavenly Father. Most of the verses on this 5 minute song either quote or paraphrase a section of scripture, but the poignancy comes in the simple, repeated chorus lines “Your love is…strong enough” and Foreman’s request for “the kingdom of the heavens” to “invade [his] heart, invade [his] town.” True to form, Jon’s graceful lyrics (“Will you sell yourself to buy the one you’ve found?”) are like a choice morsel put on the top shelf; the deliciousness sitting in full view, but the reality of the tastiness unknown until it is brought down and thoroughly digested.

The last song “Revenge” is sung from a broken man who has lived his life for sin and revenge, but when he looks back he realizes that the only “revenge” exacted on him for his sin was the sacrifice of Christ. In the immediate wake of easter it is critical to remember that this is our position: deserving of TRUE revenge for our sin. What we got instead though, was not really revenge at all…it was grace. Boundless and free. Appropriately, this song contains the least amount of musical accompaniment; Jon obviously wants the focus to be on the words, which are–though seemingly esoteric at times–truly amazing.

In summary, Jon somehow topped his efforts in “Fall” with this latest EP; some of the best solo work I’ve heard in a long while. I am almost breathless in my expectation for “Summer.” Having reached the mountain top, one’s first inclination is to take a second or two to breathe the air up there, relish the moment…and then look around for any other peak that may be higher. The search for perfection, being never fully achievable, is never quite ‘enough.’

But that has never stopped Jon from trying, and he inexplicably continues to draw closer.

Rating: 8.5/10
Highlight tracks: “Your Love Is Strong” and “Revenge”