Prime Cuts: Native Tongue, You're the One I Want, Dig New Streams
Overall Grade: 4/5
For album #11, Switchfoot has moved away from their native tongue of California-styled hard rock to explore more musical languages, in terms of sounds and sub-genres. Though the quintet still retains their guitar-driven alternative rock signature sound on certain cuts, they have also splice the other cuts with EDM dance, Beatles-esque chamber pop and there's even a stark stripped down acoustic number. Lyrically, they are also more thoughtful in their exegesis of scripture . And the ways they take these Biblically uncovered truths and apply them into our current culture with arresting currency are worth the price of this album's download. Maybe it's because of band member Jerome Fontamillas' recent bout with cancer, the band has shown maturity in their craftsmanship making these entries palatable in our sufferings and times of need.
In today's politically and racially divided culture, the title cut is an oasis. Despite the use of a mesmerising myth and a thumbing bassline, "Native Tongue" is relatively minimalist than what we would expect from a lead single. But the infectious melody and the lyrics are pure gold. Loving others, according to the 5-men band, Biblically understood is not an adorned characteristic. Rather, it's something intrinsic to all believers in Christ, a thought worth contemplating. More stellar Biblical expositions come with "Prodigal Soul:" this time Foreman takes the story of Jesus applies it on himself. This is a gorgeous specimen of how to take a pericope of Scripture and apply it to our lives.
"Dig New Streams" is the most ambitious sonic creation by the team so far. Introduced by a Beatles-esque chamber pop sound before swirling electric guitars and a swampy New Orleans-styled choir dominate, this song of reconciliation is a genius. "Joy Invincible" is the closet Switchfoot has ever got to worship music. Deeply entrenched in the teachings of scripture of how we can have joy in the midst of sufferings, this track must mean a lot of the team especially considering the trials they are going through now. Bearing their soul with heartfelt transparency is the demo-like "You're the One I Want."
"Oxygen" brings the team back to a more defined pop field with a 90s-styled breezy tune, which is passable without being exceptional. Not sure if EDM really works for this veteran group as "The Hardest Art" betrays its title as the song is more pedantic than artful. The same can be said about "Take My Fire" which is far too overblown in its execution of loud guitars and elongated percussion beats. Nevertheless, one shouldn't overlook the current single, "Let It Happen" is a wonderful application of Matthew 6:25-34 into the various contexts of our lives.
Switchfoot's "Native Tongue" does have lots of crescendos but it also has a few valley moments too. However, the pride of this record is in the way the team takes Scripture and brings from them poignant applicable truths expressed in creative measures.