Album Review :
Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane

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Artist: Switchfoot
Album: Hello Hurricane
Label: Lowercase People
Release Date: November 10, 2009
Review by: Michael Mayer III

Tracklisting:

  1. Needle and Haystack Life
  2. Mess of Me 
  3. Your Love Is a Song 
  4. The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues) 
  5. Enough to Let Me Go 
  6. Free 
  7. Hello Hurricane 
  8. Always 
  9. Bullet Soul 
  10. Yet 
  11. Sing It Out 
  12. Red Eyes

 Hello Hurricane is Switchfoot’s seventh album and it marks another new chapter in their career. They left Columbia Records to build their own studio and enjoy a new-found creative freedom. But like every grand thing worth its salt, a price needed to be paid in the process. The band have gone on record to say there were tough, unpleasant trials that were necessary to endure as they pushed each other to new heights. It is those trials that make this album seem all the more genuine with the common theme of outlasting the storm and seeing love at work in all the songs. The poppy title track has a simple summary of the theme within the lyrics when Jon sings Hello hurricane, you’re not enough, hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love’.

The first single, ‘Mess of Me’, has a very catchy stop-go rhythm as the riffs accentuate Jon’s vocals in each verse before the chorus hooks you in. Everything slows down in the bridge and the guitar sings with a soul of it’s own. The message is a familiar one with a person realizing they are the reason they are in a bind and Jon poignantly states, “It’s hard to free the ones you love when you can’t forgive yourself”. Throughout the album you’ll notice that the guitars take center stage a bit more than in the past. There are some fantastic solos that add heart and soul to the songs. The one in ‘The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues) is easily one of my favorite moments on the album as well as in their career. The combination of synths and riffs give the song a true pulse of life. Then suddenly it sounds as if all the air was sucked out of the studio with the guitar riff being muffled before a beautiful solo rips in and chaos ensues. Switchfoot have done nothing like this up to this point and that might be one of the reasons I love it so much.

‘Your Love Is a Song’ is the third song in a trilogy written by Jon Foreman. One of them appeared on his solo EP Spring and Summer (‘Your Love Is Strong’), and the other as the closing track to Oh! Gravity, ‘Let Your Love Be Strong’. All have common themes beyond their titles and also are very worshipful in nature. This one has set of string arrangements to accompany the sing-a-long chorus making it certain to be the type of song that will be mesmerizing with a whole crowd singing in unity. I have to mention that the simple backing vocals by the band really stand out to me too. There’s a lot of ooo’s going on in these songs and every time they come in it is perfect timing. It’s like the band saw gaps in the tracks and found just the right touch to color them in and give them a complete feeling.

Fortunately, the album doesn’t let up with ‘Free’, my personal favorite track. It’s a very moving rock song with string arrangements again being the focus to build to the climax instead of a simple riff beating you over the head as fast as possible. Everything flows naturally as the lyrics sing a tale that I can certainly relate to. Someone realizes they are bound by the cares of this world and no matter how hard they try they keep doing things they know they shouldn’t do. The climax is an emotional one as Jon sings “I had a dream that my chains were broken, broken, broken, broken, OPEN!”. He screams that last part and you truly get the feeling that freedom was obtained. Those that have experienced freedom and relief from personal demons will not only relate, but probably relive that joy and rock out all the more to the music.

As always, the lyrics need to be mentioned. Switchfoot’s last two albums were darker, grittier, and full of depth with cynical and honest views of society coming to the forefront. Hello Hurricane is more of a personal journey through everyday situations in life with a resounding message of love triumphing over all evil tendencies. My favorite song lyrically is ‘Yet’ (also the song most similar to their recent work musically) for a number of reasons. I’m not sure that there is anyone who can’t relate to the last part of the first verse:

“I’m losing ground and gaining speed
I’ve lost myself or most of me
I’m headed for the final precipice”

It is a message of hope and that part is immediately followed by the chorus which proclaims “You haven’t lost me yet”. All of this is backed by a simple drum beat, a light touch of synths and acoustic guitar, and a whole lot of passion from Jon. Some vocalists lose a step once they get into their second decade of singing but this is his best performance yet. The honesty in the conclusion of the song is what I love about Switchfoot:

“If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love.
If it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough.
It’s when you’re breaking down with your insides coming out.
That’s when you find out what your heart is made of…”

All in all, this album is much closer to The Beautiful Letdown than the last two. That album was instantly accessible via catchy vocal hooks and moving ballads that sought to inspire and encourage. Likewise, this album is more accessible and hopeful in every way. Unfortunately, this album has another thing in common with their 2003 breakout hit. After the first month I thought it was their best work, but as the second month went by I found my love for it dwindled. I would still place it ahead of The Beautiful Letdown but below their past two releases. Those grew on me due to their lyrical and musical depth. Hello Hurricane is very upfront on what it’s trying to say so after the honeymoon period of the shiny, new songs is over you’ve heard all it has to offer. I found myself longing for the gritty, brutally honest tracks that I could listen to at any time. It’s really just a case of what you look for in music, specifically from Switchfoot, that will determine just how much you’ll enjoy this album.

Overall: Hello Hurricane is the soundtrack for those storms everyone faces in their lives. It sounds vast, full of life and hope, and every bit fitting to the theme it was created for. It will certainly inspire as well as uplift. Rest assured, there’s something for everyone here. Older fans will love the intense pacing and screaming (Jon’s best yet) in ‘Bullet Soul’, a song that would fit at home on one of their earlier releases in the 90’s. Others seeking the emotional tracks that stir the soul will be pleased with the groovy love ballad, ‘Enough to Let Me Go’, and the more somber tune filled with heartfelt frustration and release in ‘Sing It Out’. Those that enjoyed The Beautiful Letdown more than their most recent releases will eat this up (as will Switchfoot fans in general). And yet others will simply love it for what it is and won’t hesitate to pop it in when encouragement is needed.

Gems of this album are: ‘Free’, ‘Your Love Is a Song’, ‘Sing It Out’, ‘This Is the Sound’, ‘Yet’

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