Where The Light Shines Through review by Switchfoot

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  • Released: Jul 8, 2016
  • Sound: 6
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 6
  • Reviewer's score: 6.3 Neat
  • Users' score: 6.8 (15 votes)
Switchfoot: Where The Light Shines Through

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."

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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.

15 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Great record! I love the positive vibes and also all of the sonic experimentation. Switchfoot always has some of my favorite production. I can't wait to road trip to this record.
    It's apparent that solid effort and time went in to this review, and that is appreciated. That said, Switchfoot records cannot be reviewed the same way as most other bands. A big part of what the band is known for is creativity and sonic variances throughout their albums. These colorful soundscapes are what give their records longevity and have allowed them to stay relevant for 20 plus years now. They don't spend two to three weeks in the studio cranking out records, they spend months, even years crafting songs. “Where The Light Shines Through” is sonically diverse and because of this maintains being an interesting listen throughout repeated plays. But where the songs may sound quite different from one another, the theme is cohesive and plays out throughout the album. Blink 182’s newest “California” is an example of an album that won’t entice repeated listens after the initial excitement of a new release waivers, as it often hearkens back to the Blink of old and doesn’t tread a lot of new ground. This album on the other hand adds beautiful color to Switchfoot’s impressive catalog, and will serve to both excite the current fan base as well as add new fans to it. Additionally, it really shows off the bands musical chops. Float carries with it a bass-line reminiscent of RHCP’s Flea, while other parts of the album remind one of The Beatles White Album. Not to mention bringing hip-hop to the table with “Looking For America”. Another gripe here is the comparison between songs from previous records and this one. Downgrading an album because it has a couple tracks that dabble where previous records have (despite not at all actually sounding alike) is unfair and forgets that evolutions are gradual, not overnight. If this were an issue than bands like RHCP and Blink 182, would have negative reviews every time they release an album due to the similarities from previous releases, no matter how great the musicianship. At worst this album is 8. The large mood shifts may be a small negative, but with time they don't raise as much concern for the listner. The main reason to dock any further points is the due to the restraint they themselves put on the bridges of songs like “I Won’t Let You Go” and “Live It Well”, which could arguably have had a lot more gusto in them instrumentally. If “Float” does well on alt-radio we should see a markedly renewed interest in the band from outside the current fan-base.
    6.5 overall?!?!?!?!?!? Different strokes for different folks I suppose This is a great album, great songs and great music. I love some of those funky solo's Drew came up with!
    I really appreciate this album. However, I don't think we should compare it with Fading West for example because this one was kind of special. What I think is that WTLST is rather a mix between the three last albums and the result is successful. Anyway, though it isn't perfect, it's a great album. Good production, great lyrics, nice sounds... Switchfoot never disappoints. I'm eager to hear the new Relient K's album as well!
    This is my least favorite album by these guys, that necessarily isn't a bad thing since they are way better than most if not all christian groups but it feels too much like these guys were trying to go all over the place for the SAKE of going all over the place. It does not feel like a whole album, it almost feels like a greatest hits album except it's missing the hits. (other than Float and Hope is the Anthem)