Sound — 8
I could start off talking about the sound of this record by citing track four, "The Sound," but I'm not going to. Having finally overcome the hype this record instilled in me, I've decided to start writing reviews again under a more critical eye than usual (don't tell that to the users complaining about my 'Thriller' review being too harsh), starting with the latest Switchfoot release. I've been a huge fan of Switchfoot since the release of 'The Beautiful Letdown,' their best album up to then, which was, incidentally, 2003, and the best record they put out for quite a long time. While it is true that my favorite was the followup, 2005's 'Nothing is Sound,' I acknowledged the 'TBL' was the better and appreciated that, much like my feelings for 'The Wall' versus 'Dark Side of the Moon.' It is well known amongst fans and friends of mine that I am not a fan of 'Oh! Gravity,' a cheap cash-in released to crowds of fans who were roaring for some reason merely a year after 'Nothing is Sound.' Well, isn't this special! Sony and Columbia are pushing out more fecal matter than we can chew on? Still? Granted, it's not a bad record, it's just not a very good one, so I was anxious, after Switchfoot announced their record independence, to see what they'd come out with. Nothing was as disappointing to me as other releases by other bandsEvanescencebut the back of my head always ended the sentences of encouragement with the word 'yet,' which is, incidentally, another track title. 2009 brought us 'Hello Hurricane.' I bought a copy of this record and didn't open it; it was a Christmas gift for my best friend, so she got to hear it before I did, as far as the FBI knows. I had to wait until she sent it to me as a birthday present, and I only recieved it a few days before Christmas, so maybe I did hear it first. Legally. Where were we? Ah, yes, Hello Hurricane. It beats 'Oh! Gravity' and 'Nothing is Sound.' Surprised? Let me talk about the opening track, "Needle and Haystack Life," as the opening track should always be one of the best. After all, without a solid opening track, where does the rest of the album go? The first song should blow the audience awayintroduce them to the world of the record. Well, "Needle" does that rather well. It's got Jon Foreman's Bonoesque screaming, as always, and a nice upbeat tempo to boot. "Mess of Me" continues the new-found Switchfoot tradition of having a slamming rock theme, and ranks up with "Polititians" and is better than "Oh! Gravity." The more somber sounds we got with older Switchfoot releases include "Enough to Let Me Go" and "Yet," which are both great tracks and great Switchfoot songs. The former is a very vocally driven piece with some nice acoustic guitars, and "Yet" is more bass and vocals. Both are amongst the best songs on the album. The weakest on the record are actually kind of hard to pick out, though I can also say that there aren't any musical standouts hereno "Bohemian Rhapsody"s or anything. The most average ones, however, are "Bullet Soul" and "Free," neither of which are really all that bad. The title track is great, "Always" is a piano ballad of sorts which is sure to be a standout, "Red Eyes" is the perfect finale. If anything, this record sounds emotionally inspiring, which you don't see a lot anymore. New elements include more beat-driven tracks, "Bullet Soul" comes to mind, but the most prominent tracks are still the emotionally wrenching ones. Switchfoot, of course, is known for doing this with works such as "On Fire" and such, and this record is definitely adding to their 'Best of' list. It's a nice refreshment and it gets closer to their roots than we have been for quite some timedefinitely a nice blend of older and newish Switchfoot. One of their best. Nice job, everyone.
Lyrics — 7
Jon Foreman has always been an emotional writer, and if you don't know that now, see his solo works. He's much in the veins of Roger Waters and Bono's illegitimate child, who, by the way, is writing this review. The tradition is continued as expected in this record, which is neither here nor there with quality. While Jon and whomsoever may assist him in the writing process may do a good job, they don't do a perfect one. By today's standards, I should be giving them a gold star, but I'm not reviewing this in short-terms, I'm reviewing in retrospect. If they're going to make music, they might as well do it right. Well, they at least do an acceptable job. No huge curves or anything unexpected, though that might be a good thing. I can't imagine Switchfoot trying to be tongue-in-cheek like Queen or outright and screaming like Pink Floyd. Thematically, it's more uplifting yet more emotionally charged than previous works, and there are some real tear-jerkers. I've mentioned Bono twice in this review so far, and I'm sure my fellow critics have constantly compared he and Jon vocally. Yes, it's true, Jon does some things like Bono, though it doesn't sound like he's trying to imitate U2, despite citing the band many times as an influence. That's probably a good thing; a band that's influenced but doesn't sound too much like an older band. If there's one thing that sets the two apart, it's probably Jon's fantastic screaming. See: "Bullet Soul" and "Mess of Me." Everything flows as you'd expect it to in a Switchfoot album, and that is to say that it flows rather nicely, thank you.
Overall Impression — 9
This year has been difficult for me, when it comes to music. Several bands I started listening toThe Fray, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatusand even bands I've known for awhile, like Skillet, have disappointed in 2009. Luckily, Switchfoot managed to pull out of the radiowave whoring that was 'Oh! Gravity' and put together a solid album, one of their greatest efforts to date. In fact, I'd put it above 'The Beautiful Letdown' if that wasn't such a classic SF record. And for all you older Switchfoot fans, there are still some things about 'New Way to Be Human' (1999) and 'Learning to Breathe' (2001) that were as memorable as moments on 'Hello Hurricane.' Even their debut has its moments. But Switchfoot has really grown as a band since then, taking themselves seriously, but not in the wrong ways. They're finding their foothold more and more each day. They've explored many areas with success and will continue to do so, and I'll be there when they do. 'Hello Hurricane' is, in conclusion, my new favorite Switchfoot record. It's got all the elements I loved about the older records, the middle ones, and even the newer releases. Plus, it's got personality that sets it apart from the others which I felt the previously cited sophomore record lacked sorely. Harder songs like "Mess of Me" and "The Sound" are full of Jon's magnificent howling, and more intimate tracks, "Always" and "Sing it Out" are just great. I enjoy every minute of 'Hello Hurricane,' even if it's not all the most creative and innovative stuff. I do recommend it, highly, whether or not you've been a Switchfoot fan since 'The Legend of Chin,' 'Nothing is Sound,' or even since reading this review. As a standalone record, it beats all the others. As a Switchfoot release, it's at least second best. We're supposed to be getting a new record either this or next year, and we'll just have to see whether they are met with my personal approval or not. Personally, I wasn't too thrilled the last time they only took a year between releases.