Reviewed by Susan Lloyd
Hello Hurricane by
"With Hello Hurricane Switchfoot has successfully created a work that speaks into the more difficult parts of human existence with a message of hope and endurance."
A lot can happen in three years. And in the space from 2006-2009, our country, our world, has seen its share of emergencies, crises, triumphs, and change. Our government leadership has changed. Our country continues to struggle through a war. Disease and natural disaster seem to come in a steady stream and make headlines on almost a daily basis. And the reaction of one woman who endured one of our country's greatest natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina, has been the seed of inspiration behind the title track of Switchfoot's latest album Hello Hurricane. At a recent GMC taping for the channel's program “Revealed”, bassist Tim Foreman explained that after the band had an opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity in Baton Rouge, LA, they met a woman whose determination to steel her way through all that Katrina had thrown at her was so striking, they knew they had to find a way to put her spirit into song. And so, the title Hello Hurricane came first. Then the song, and then the vision for the entire album. Jon Foreman, front man and main songwriter for the band states that “The storms of this life shatter our plans.They tear through our world and destroy our hopes and dreams. Hello Hurricane is an attempt to sing into the storm”
To date, Switchfoot has never produced a more raw, honest, hopeful, and inspiring album.
And that's saying a lot.
Seventh in a line-up of impressive studio efforts including multi-platinum selling The Beautiful Letdown, Hello Hurricane combines the raw emotion of Nothing is Sound with the power and inspiration of the afore-mentioned The Beautiful Letdown and Oh! Gravity. Switchfoot has created a remarkable album in which nothing and everything sounds like Switchfoot. Their DNA runs through it, plainly and clearly in huge hooks and front man Jon Foreman's unique vocals, but there's something ringing through this album that seems more alive, more passionate, and more focused than previous works. Part of the success of the album may be that Switchfoot hired producer Darryl Thorpe to help them pare down their mountain of songs (120+) for the album and Mike Elizondo to help them further define a new sound and firm up their vision for the album.
According to a promotional video released by the band in late September, the effort to produce the album has been a struggle. Foreman says, “There were stormy, (though necessary) moments during the recording process that were neither graceful nor pretty. This was not an easy record to make; we were fighting to get somewhere we had never been.” And with all the sonic power that can come through one twelve song album, Switchfoot has arrived at their destination.
This is a new era for the band. In the nearly three years since Oh! Gravity dropped, the San Diego based band has broken ties with Sony, built their own studio, and created lowercase people records, their own label. With all that change and the anticipation behind this latest release, the album needed to reflect something larger than the band, larger than life. With Hello Hurricane Switchfoot has successfully created a work that speaks into the more difficult parts of human existence with a message of hope and endurance. Each song is so carefully crafted, both lyrically and sonically that I find it impossible to listen to the album in its entirety and not shake my head in wonder.
Switchfoot has admitted that one of the perks of having their own studio is the time it allows for experimentation and multiple versions of each song. The uniquely created riffs of the albums opener “Needle and Haystack Life” are an example of that experimentation and give a hint as to what's in store throughout the rest of the album.
Honestly, each song on the album is worthy of its own separate review, but the ones that truly shine are the ones that seemed to stretch the band into new territory. “Mess of Me” is a HUGE song, full of aggression and raw angst with a bridge that matches Foreman's note bending wails with Drew Shirley's guitar genius in a way that gives the song a masculine edge, an edge that’s only been hinted at in Oh! Gravity's “Dirty Second Hands”. And while tracks “This is the Sound” and “Bullet Soul” have that same blistering aggressiveness, the 'Foot still has the ability to spill out vulnerability and transparency with songs like “Yet” and “Red Eyes”.
As amazing as these songs are, both in their lyricism and their musical excellence, there are two that really stand out as stunning works of art. “Free” steps away from a traditional alt rock sound by wrapping itself around a blues scale, incorporating big, pulsing strings into the framework, and allowing Foreman to really shine as a passionate vocal artist. There are instrumental stops that create space for Foreman to growl out his frustration over the prison that he is within himself, and those stops are when I hear echoes of Johnny Cash, who I believe would be all about this song if he were alive today. “Free” resonates with humanity's cry for a rescue, and anyone who has ever felt the frustration of his own limitations and weaknesses will identify with Foreman's brutal plea for a rescue.
The other song that grabbed me from its first, stark chord is “Sing it Out”. It’s an instant Switchfoot classic, not because it sounds like everything they've ever done before, but because it sounds like nothing they've ever done before. The first two verses of this song are floating, haunting, aching admissions of a broken heart sung by a broken man. While there is a danger of emoting to the point of sappiness in a song like this, brilliant production and arrangement have kept that from happening in this confessional modern day psalm. The starkness of the first two verses has also allowed for the build towards the end to have more impact, and Foreman's soul-baring honesty is well communicated by the intensity of his voice.
Title track “Hello Hurricane”, stunner “Always” (which is destined to be a HUGE hit in the Christian market), “Enough to Let Me Go” which features some gorgeous falsetto work from Foreman, and “Your Love is a Song”, so ridiculously good it deserved a paragraph in this review round out the album and complete the thought that life is full of pain and despair but hope and love are indestructible.
Armed with a new start, a new
independence, and lessons learned through the fires of life, Switchfoot
has come up with a winner in Hello Hurricane.
This is one of the few albums I've heard that I feel has very little pretense.
The depth of Switchfoot's sincerity rings through each chord, whether harmonious
or dissonant. There seems to be no fear, no desire to please, no “numbers” expectations
tied up in these songs. The desire seems to be only that these songs speak
hope and love into the life of the listener. This is Switchfoot all grown
the album trailer:
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com