Word Label Group
Release Date: May 26th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- The Mountain
- You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are
- Patron Saint Of Rock And Roll
- All Of God’s Children
One of the most popular and respected bands ever in both Christian and mainstream media; San Diego rockers Switchfoot, comprising of Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Drew Shirley, Jerome Fontamillas and Chad Butler, have been creating unique and breathtaking melodies for a while now, having been active since 1996, and their most recent achievement being the surfing documentary Fading West and the companion soundtrack album of the same name (both released in January 2014), alongside Edge Of The Earth, a b-sides EP released in September last year to commercial and critical acclaim, and such sublime quality in the same league as the inventive and daring full length album. Having blown away listeners in 2003 with their smash hit “Dare You To Move”, and also releasing well known and much loved tracks such as “Meant To Live”, “Stars”, “Awakening”, “Your Love Is A Song”, “Mess Of Me”, “Restless”, “Dark Horses” and most recently “Love Alone Is Worth The Fight” and “When We Come Alive”; I personally have come to the conclusion that the best music these band of five brothers in Christ have released are yet to be recorded, as Jon, Chad, Jerome, Drew and Tim have grown spiritually, musically and lyrically in the past few years in leaps and bounds!
But…this is not a Switchfoot review, as the guys are still yet to release a follow up response album to Fading West. So why am I writing this ‘blurb’ and ‘mini description’ about Switchfoot and their history? I guess this is all pre-cursor and context, for me to review lead singer Jon Foreman’s solo EP Sunlight, which just released this past week via Word Label Group. Does this mean that the band is disbanding? No, not by any means. In fact, this side project (or projects, as Jon is unveiling 4 brand new EP’s this year!) envisioned by Jon is musically very different to the band, as Jon opts for light acoustic instrumentation and employing more ethereal and haunting instruments, as opposed to the noise and busyness of the guitar led Switchfoot records. So how does this EP stack up against Jon’s previous solo albums and the entire Switchfoot discography? Pretty good, I reckon! With such lyrically sound melodies and though provoking topics explored, Sunlight EP is my favourite EP of the year!
Beginning proceedings with the confronting yet encouraging piano led mid-tempo ballad “Terminals”, littered with handclaps; Jon inspires us and powerfully relays how all of us as humans are sick with sin, with no cure from the ‘doctor’ except for Jesus Christ. A beautifully crafted and multi-layered melody, the deft touches of the acoustic guitar combined with the sublime keys actually brings Jon’s vocals to the fore more-so than with electric guitars in my opinion, and adds extra depth too. With the hopeful music sounding melancholy and subdued at the same time, this is a brilliant opener- one that I am in awe of, and one that gives me chills, especially when Jon proclaims that ‘…some folks die in offices, one day at a time, they could live a hundred years, but the soul’s already died, don’t let your spirit die before your body does…’; a confronting notion that we all need to process and ponder over as we marvel at Jon’s song writing ability.
With the rest of the EP experimenting with many different styles, no style is more daring and creative than “The Mountain”, which starts with African style percussion and an emphatic acoustic guitar presence. Strings then join in, providing the melody with a personal atmosphere, as Jon eloquently expresses that God can move our mountains in our lives if we just believe in that eternal fact. Encouraging and inspiring as the song reminds us to trust God more with the mountains and hopeless situations in our lives; “The Mountain” segues into the most lyrically complex melody on the album, and the album highlight. “You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are”.
Musically the most ‘busy’ on the EP, with keys and electronic programming being at the forefront, Jon encourages us to be bold and let go of the fears and insecurities we may have bottled up inside and instead give them to God. Evident in the first chorus, as Jon sings out ‘…come surrender your hidden scars, leave your weapons where they are, you’ve been hiding, but I know your wounded heart, but you don’t know how beautiful you are…’, we are provided with a message of hope, truth, beauty, self-worth and love, that Jesus loves us no matter what we have done, even if we don’t think so or that we are even worthy enough. With hand claps and mesmerising keys, this song will be on my iTunes playlist on repeat for a while! The harmonica then makes an appearance, with the lead single “Caroline” being a country infused slow tempo ballad, where Jon sings about a girl who has lost her way in this world after making some questionable choices. Though the song provides us with no clear solution of what she should do, we are asked the question of what we should do when faced with an impossible situation, and I am sure this heartfelt and powerful melody encourages us to stay on the narrow path- the path that leads to Jesus.
The most obscure melody on Sunlight EP, yet possibly the song that lyrically means the most and challenges us; is the penultimate melody “Patron Saint Of Rock And Roll”. A tongue in cheek inspiring melody, the haunting and mysterious organ led song is a multilayer song lyrically, when explored deeper. Jon ardently speaks up against the hypocrisy and contradiction of the church in light of caring for the homeless, the sick, the needy and the outcasts of society for whatever reason, also highlighting the brokenness in this world through vivid imagery and the disparity between the love shown amongst fellow believers in the church, and the homeless who never even heard about Jesus. Almost as confronting as Switchfoot’s “Selling The News”, the brass instruments are introduced near the end of the song, which is a nice touch. The EP ends with the reflective, yet also celebratory and joyful “All God’s Children”. With a sense of hopefulness attached to the EP ender, Jon brilliantly sings about God’s never ending qualities, and encourages Christians to shine for Jesus wherever we are. With Jon emphatically proclaiming that ‘…I believe in a world that’s beyond me, I believe in a world I ain’t seen, past the glass, the shotgun shacks, the violent, faceless, racist facts, I believe in a world that’s made clean…’; we are asked the question “What do we believe”, and that is a pertinent and necessary question to ask. Well done Jon for a though provoking and near flawless EP!
“…Why are we so afraid of these disruptions? Most of our lives are spent pushing back against the chaos. We make laws, we make our plans, we make backup plans. We fight entropy the best we can. But I get the feeling sometimes that I don’t have as much control as I’d like to think. And maybe that’s a good thing…” Though one might pass off this EP as a side project, as something that is inferior to the Switchfoot albums, I tend to disagree. If you are not a fan of Jon’s earlier work, or aren’t sure about it, then I guess you are in for a real treat, as each and every of the 6 songs are sure to inspire, confront, comfort and probe, as we seek answers and seek more and more of God in our lives. Personally I see the 6 song EP, the first of a 4 EP series The Wonderlands; as a reminder to put our heart and soul into everything we do, as we never know when the fruits of our labour will be sown and reaped. With the band still going strong, Jon’s solo work has also benefited from a stellar band career thus far, and I hope and pray that Jon’s introspective and reflective works of art are appreciated and loved by all who listen. As for the rest of The Wonderlands releasing in a few months; if they’re as half as good as Sunlight, then Jon Foreman is sure to have a brighter and longer career ahead of him! Bring on Shadows EP in July!
3 songs to listen to: Terminal, You Don’t Know How Beautiful You Are, All God’s Children
RIYL: Needtobreathe, Lifehouse, Daughtry, Third Day, House Of Heroes