Sound — 6
The band began recording "Fading West" in the latter part of 2012, making this a fairly long project from start to finish. In interviews, members have claimed they took a lot of motivation for the album from sounds normally outside the context of harmony and melody, which they attempted to recreate as harmony and melody in their songwriting process. "Fading West" is the band's 9th studio album. There are 11 tracks on the album with a total runtime of just over 43 minutes. There have been two singles released from the album, the first single was "Who We Are" and the second "Love Alone Is Worth the Fight."
The album opens up with the song "Love Alone Is Worth the Fight," which, along with most of the songs on the album, has an overwhelmingly positive message. What stood out for me on this track was the stomp clap drumbeat and the backing vocals going "uh-e-oh-uh-e-oh" through most of the track. "Who We Are" is next up and starts out with camping and the instrumentation comes in sounding like it is being pushed through a broken down P.A. and tries to capitalize on that nostalgic feeling a lot of songs seem to be aiming at in alternative rock lately. "When We Come Alive" has a lot of sustained vocals, powerful backing vocals and a strong beat and is exactly the type of pop rock that I have a hard time with. Not one of my favorite tracks. "Say It Like You Mean It" is up next, and I was immediately digging this track. It has a little bit more drive and dirt to it than a lot of the album and lyrics that are almost rapped. "The World You Want" is next up, and is primarily a piano track and is basically a slow tempo ballad about how we're creating the world we live in so if you don't like it then do something about it – a good message, anyway. "Slipping Away" is next up and has a little bit of a hip hop feel to it with the beat. "Ba55" has a really unique feel to it, which makes it an easy 2nd favorite on the album for me – and I'll be honest, it is all about the simple little repetitive riff on this one that reminded me of Gorillaz. "Let It Out" is straight up pop music, as in I was very surprised about this song even being on the album. "All or Nothing at All" is another track that I almost want to dismiss as pop music, but it does have an interesting dance music thing going on that elevates it a little bit. "Saltwater Heart" definitely had one of the more interesting concepts behind it from a lyrical standpoint and making it the most abstract song on the album as well. The album closes out with the track "Back to the Beginning Again," which is another song trying to pull on those nostalgic feelings, but it was an okay track to wind down the album from.
Lyrics — 7
Jon Foreman has been providing lyrics for the band since they founded, as well as vocals, and he knows what he's doing in the context of Switchfoot. You can't really complain about Jon's skills as a vocalist – he doesn't necessarily turn heads, but he is competent. The lyrics on the album are fairly engaging and overwhelmingly positive pretty much throughout. As some samples, here are some lyrics from "The World You Want": "I'm kickin up the pieces/ I'm trying out adhesives/ I'm trying to fix a place that feels broken/ All my words they fail me/ My voices don't avail me/ I'm trying to say the hope that's unspoken/ Is this the world you want? / Is this the world you want? / You're making it/ Every day you're alive/ Is this the world you want? / Is this the world you want? / You're making it." No complaints on the vocals or the lyrics on this one.
Overall Impression — 7
Before "Fading West" my knowledge of Switchfoot was basically limited to just hearing a few songs here and there in passing. I had heard they were a Christian alternative rock band with a tendency towards grunge. Listening back to some of their older material, as well as the songs on "Fading West," I have to agree with that for the most part. While the band isn't overtly pushing religion they are at least trying to come from the perspective of their faith. I don't have an issue with that, but some people do and will. My favorite track from the album would almost certainly be "Say It Like You Mean It," with "Ba55" coming in second. I thought the music didn't always live up to the lyrics, and the band is trying too hard to be eclectic and jumps around too much in their overall sound. The lack of cohesiveness made it a little hard for me to really get behind this album.