Sound — 9
Switchfoot's latest full-length CD Oh! Gravity actually started out with the purpose of being an EP release, but the band apparently discovered there was more than enough time to put out the real deal when they hit the studio. The band has described the result as the Switchfoot's "most sincere effort," and fans will likely be able to hear that as well. Full of rich sounds (many of which are on layering tracks to enhance the base melody) as well as some more punk-based songs, "Oh! Gravity" is a well-rounded exploration of Switchfoot's progressing style.
Some of the most impressive moments on the latest record are the little additions you can hear in the background of songs like the title track "Oh! Gravity." In the verse, you can hear what sounds like a high-pitched echo that matches everything vocalist Jon Foreman sings. It is so skillfully subtle that it's hard to tell if it is a guitar, keyboard, or even just another vocal line. Later in the song, you can also hear a fantastic keyboard line that could easily be done on a Moog - it just has that nice electronic vibe to it. The keyboard portion comes and goes quickly, so it is a fascinating little addition to "Oh! Gravity."
Switchfoot (rounded out by bassist Tim Foreman, drummer Chad Butler, guitarist/keyboardist Jerome Fontamillas and guitarist Andrew Shirley) makes the biggest impression with the track "Dirty Second Hands," which you can already imagine hearing on the radio. It has sort of an acoustic blues sound in the chorus, but then explodes in the chorus when a distorted electric guitar jumps in. It is an unbelievable good song and it uses enough different changes in style along the way to keep things extremely interesting.
While not every song reaches the level of "Dirty Second Hands," each track has enough melodic catchiness that Switchfoot fans will probably still find them likeable. "Awakening" sounds a bit too much like what you'd hear on a teen TV show right now with its relatively sedate verse and emotionally charged chorus, and it just doesn't live up to the talent heard on the other tracks. But again, it could instantly be a hit because it sticks to the formula really well.
Lyrics — 9
Even though Switchfoot has won several Dove Awards (for contemporary Christian music), the band has still always expressed its desire to steer clear from being overly preachy. By not pushing ideas down listeners' throats, the band has still managed to convey more philosophical ideas in a way that has probably connected with a lot more fans.
While the lyrics on "Oh! Gravity" are not the most groundbreaking the band has written thus far, they are still pretty solid. "Faust, Midas, And Myself" represents one of the most unique tracks lyrically on the record. It basically talks about a bizarre, but meaningful dream that Jon Foreman relays through the course of the song. In one section he wakes up from and dream and says, "My wife was at the door; With her night robe on/My heart beat once or twice; And life flooded my veins; Everything had changed." Each verse has an odd little reflection like that one and it makes for an interesting listen.
"Awakening" draws on very specific details in the lyrics and that makes it stand out instantly. Foreman sings, "Face down with the LA curbside endings; With the ones and zeros; Downtown was the perfect place to hide; The first star that I saw last night was a headlight of a man-made sky." Those are some of the most beautiful lines on the record and gives listeners more than what you usually hear on a rock tune.
Overall Impression — 9
"Oh! Gravity" is one of the best releases from Switchfoot in an already impressive career. The 6th album is diverse in the styles it covers, and surprisingly, the band is able to conquer each of those styles effectively. The strongest songs, among them "Dirty Second Hands" and "Circles," are not only melodically catchy, but they also explore a lot of interesting sounds and effects along the way.
While Switchfoot has been made fun of for its rather benign music, it should still be given respect this time around. It doesn't try to play heavy metal on "Oh! Gravity", and that's not a bad thing for this band. What Switchfoot might lack in aggression it more than makes up for in memorable and melodic songs.