Sound — 6
In the post-big break era of their career, Switchfoot's parting with Columbia Records after the punchier alt-rock likes of 2006's "Oh! Gravity." was seen as an opportunity to really seize creative control with their album production and expand their sonic repertoire. However, that endeavor to expand has been very gradual, only coming in inches with each album: 2009's "Hello Hurricane" dabbled a bit in new wave while mostly sticking to their general alt-rock sound; 2011's "Vice Verses" brought forth more retro rock fuzz to the table; and 2014's "Fading West" walked back the gruffness of its predecessor by appealing to a shinier pop rock sound.
In their tenth album, "Where the Light Shines Through," Switchfoot up the ante in terms of offering a varied sound. The album's first stretch, which goes for color over cohesion, proves to be solid not just for its wide array, but in its improved execution. The opening "Holy Water" gets some additional flair added to its arena rock base with a Mutemath-esque piano melody, the dancer rocker "Float" grooves in an unconventional 7/4 measurement, the eponymous song conjures up a hearty classic rock singalong, and frontman Jon Foreman channels his inner Chris Martin in the ballad of "I Won't Let You Go."
From there, though, the intrigue starts to wane. Along with echoing previous songs to a lesser degree of success - like the second dance rocker "Bull in a China Shop," and the pop rock ballad "Live It Well" - Switchfoot also retry ideas they've done in previous albums without much improvement, like the new wave cut "If the House Burns Down Tonight" referring back to "Hello Hurricane," or the hip-hop driven "Looking for America" being another iteration of the "Vice Verses" song "Selling the News." This latter half of the album also starts to show the album's hodgepodge offering working against itself, and though Switchfoot try to center themselves around a rousing and anthemic pop sound similar to "Fading West" with "Shake This Feeling," "Live It Well," and "Hope Is the Anthem," it clashes with the Franz Ferdinand flow of "Bull in a China Shop" and the heavy fuzz of the blues rocker "Healer of Souls."
Lyrics — 7
After the lyrical concept of "Fading West" provided a more laidback spectacle for Switchfoot, Foreman goes back to penning lyrics of worship in "Where the Light Shines Through." Similarly to his lyrical soul searching in "Vice Verses," Foreman also connects the intro and outro songs in this album - with "Holy Water" making a reference to "Hope Is the Anthem" and vice versa - as an effort to show that even an end of a spiritual journey always lends itself to begin again. And in between it all, among a slew of predictably uplifting quotes both intriguing ("Mama, ain't the blood just proof I'm human? / Mama, ain't the wound just retribution?" in the eponymous song) and trite ("Every breath that you take it a miracle" in "Live It Well"), Foreman's religious musing focuses on his anti-materialist sentiments that haven't been brandished in a while, heard in "Float" ("Money gonna leave you broken hearted / But money can't finish what we started"), "If the House Burns Down" ("You possess your possessions or they possess you / And if the house burns down tonight / I got everything I need when I got you by my side"), and "The Day That I Found God" ("I found riches ain't the things that I had bought / I found out the day I lost myself was the day that I found God").
Overall Impression — 6
Being an amplified effort of Switchfoot's genre experimentation that they began to shoot for several years ago, the conglomeration of styles amassed in "Where the Light Shines Through" is more ambitious than the smaller fits of genre experimentation Switchfoot have dabbled with in their previous albums. But that ambition wobbles with imbalance the further it goes, and with repeating ideas and clashing moods, "Where the Light Shines Through" has trouble handling its lofty aspirations from start to finish.