Sound — 9
Switchfoot is the type of band that seems to change per album. Despite the changing sounds and different styles that permeate their catalog, the one thing that attracts me and I'm sure attracts other fans is their consistency. It's not the consistency where every album sounds the same, but they keep their sound regardless of how they change from album to album. They have this vibe and feeling about them that doesn't go away even when they go from quirky alt/pop to a straight up rocker during the course of one album. Such is the case with Hello Hurricane. The album showcases a newer sound that is hard to put into words. Great tones are all across the board from lush delay and clean tones to fuzz pedals that go from smooth chords to raunchy grind and screaming leads. There doesn't seem to be much amp overdrive this time around (at least to my ears), which is probably part of the difference. There seem to be way more ambient sounds and fuzz tone in lieu of overdrive, that sound more post/rock in nature than I usually hear from Switchfoot. The second reason why this album seems so different is probably the song arrangements. I know what you're thinking. Of course the song arrangements are different and of course that's why it sounds different. The thing is, it's not so much that the song arrangements are extremely different, but they seem more rich for lack of better word. I guess the word for it would be mature. It's been gone for a while, but it's ever more apparent that the wild abandon and three chord arrangements of their youth are long gone. They've added a lot of dynamics ranging from loud to soft and seem to have added that notorious middle ground that most bands miss and every member is a contributing part of the dynamics. If you take one away, then the whole thing doesn't work. From the call and response in Mess Of Me, to the stops right before a solo, to the chord progressions that manage to be have pop appeal yet remain interesting (singles nearly half the songs on the album), to the subtle things like a bass line or keyboard part, there is a lot going on and it takes all of them to do it. This is the tell-tell sign of excellent band dynamic and cooperation.
Lyrics — 9
Switchfoot has for the most part taken a philosophical stance to lyrics over aiming for the throat and hitting you over the head with a specific message. This can be taken as a good thing or a bad thing, because that leaves lyrics pretty open to interpretation and one may not always reach the intended conclusion. For the most part the lyrics have remained philosophical yet clear enough to properly discern, but some of the more spiritual meanings will probably be lost on people who don't look for them. As for Hello Hurricane, the lyrics are intelligent enough yet remain easy enough to comprehend. Mess Of Me talks about how a lot of times the problem is found within ourselves and speaks of the desire to fix it and get back on track to live productively. Your Love Is A Song speaks of how the finite and often chaotic condition of the universe, life, our dreams, and even ourselves is held together by the symphony of God's love as it conducts chaos and discord into a song. Pretty much all of the songs convey messages just as deep and thought provoking. It might seem like such heavy lyrical content would dampen the mood of the lighter toned songs, but it doesn't. The lyrics fit quite well with the mood of each song. As for the vocals, they are top notch. Could some properly trained vocalist who has been coached for years hand Jon and Tim their butts on a platter in technique? Absolutely. You have to see though, the vocal quality in question doesn't have so much to do with technique, but with heart. Jon delivers good feeling and power in his clean singing and his high pitched scream/singing and Tim offers excellent backup and harmony singing. There also seems to an improvement in range as Jon is hitting notes that we had previously had yet to hear.
Overall Impression — 9
Switchfoot can never really compare too heavily with other artists. I think that is part of the magic of each album being unique from the other. With them constantly changing they never sound a whole lot like other bands or artists. The most impressive songs to me are Needle And Haystack Life, Mess Of M, The Sound, Hello Hurricane, Bullet Sou, but they are all good. I can't really say I hate anything about it because I was getting tired of music in general. This album gave me something fresh. I would certainly get another if this was somehow lost.