Album Review: Switchfoot – Where the Light Shines Through

Switchfoot

Switchfoot hits new heights with their 10th studio album Where the Light Shines Through, out today, featuring delightful melodies, fun arrangements and an overall shift towards a new sound and musical direction.

Don’t worry superfans, the album isn’t a drastic departure from past releases it’s just different, and refreshing in a number of ways, most notably by showing the band’s ability to think outside the box and produce a 12 track album (15 tracks on the Deluxe Album) that almost feels like they’re starting anew.

Perhaps, most surprisingly, is the rocking  and upbeat nature of the album considering it was born from, as singer Jon Foreman said, “one of the darkest times I’ve ever been through.” Contrarily, it pops from the opening song to the closer and unlike their last effort, Fading West, which took the live treatment to really show the strength of the songs, Where the Light Shines Through is indeed an immediate ray of sunshine.

The album opens with “Holy Water” featuring an awesome chorus followed by one of the album’s best songs and simply nothing you’ve ever heard from the San Diego five-some in “Float.” Think Beck’s “Dreams” and finally Tim Foreman gets to shine on bass. One listen and you’ll be begging for more.

The title track infuses a bit of country and a touch of gospel into that familiar Switchfoot sound before the band hits you over the head with the emotional pull of “I Won’t Let You Go.” It’s as deep as any song Switchfoot has ever written (If you can let the pain of the past go/Of your soul/None of this is in your control/If you could only let your guard down/If you could learn to trust me somehow/I swear, that I won’t let you go) and shows a never before heard dynamic and range to Jon Foreman’s vocals. This is the song missing from Coldplay’s last two albums.

Don’t let the start of “If The House Burns Down Tonight” fool you, it’s pace turns quickly and is reminiscent of some of Billy Joel’s work from the 80s. “The Day That I Found God” is perhaps the band’s most vocal pronouncement, song wise, of their Christian faith. It’s a modern day psalm full of lamentation, some questions and finally reality.

“Shake This Feeling” continues with solid harmonies and could very well serve as one of several applicable singles on this album. “Bull in a China Shop” is another anomaly in the Switchfoot catalog, with a really clever guitar hook but the excessive repeat of the chorus bogs it down quite a bit and feels like the band found that fun hook but didn’t know exactly where to go from there.

“Live It Well” is the most Switchfoot of all the songs and could easily slide right in on any one of their previous albums.

It’s rarely if ever a good idea to combine a rapper and a rock band but “Looking for America” which features Lecrae (wow, he’s really making the rounds with Christian rock bands) isn’t all that bad (though it does comes across trying to hard to be Eminem) and considering the recent events in Dallas it’s got some seriously germane lyrics – America who are you?/Underneath the red blue and white?/America who are you?/I wonder who you are tonight/America who are you?/Is God still on your side?/I want to see a nation rise above the fear and fight that haunts these streets tonight

“Healer of Souls” brings the fun back with a catchy pop rhythm the Black Keys would appreciate and the regular album ends with “Hope Is The Anthem” the only other song that embraces the traditional Switchfoot sound.

The Deluxe Edition of the Where The Light Shines Through includes three additional songs which, quite often, when bands offer the “Deluxe” version the extra songs come off more as second hand, or those left off a previous album or just didn’t make the cut for the current album but worth sharing anyway. It’s never really made sense to me, if they’re good enough for a “Deluxe” album then they’re good enough for the regular album.

However, these songs indeed continue Switchfoot’s foray into new territory with the very different, very cool,  and somber sounding “Light And Heavy.” “Begin Forever “ and “When Was the Last Time” wrap it up and definitely feel more like songs from When the Light Shines Through but don’t necessarily give the same punch as the rest though “Begin Forever” definitely delivers grow-on-you attributes.

Some of music’s best songs, and albums for that matter, often result from the songwriter’s personal struggles with “fill-in-the-blank.” Where the Light Shines Through  is no different. Foreman said he turned his scars into songs and the album is the band’s most personal to date.

It’s also one of their best.

Grade: A-

Switchfoot – Where the Light Shines Through track list

  1. Holy Water
  2. Float
  3. Where The Light Shines Through
  4. I Won’t Let You Go
  5. If The House Burns Down Tonight
  6. The Day That I Found God
  7. Shake This Feeling
  8. Bull In A China Shop
  9. Live It Well
  10. Looking For America
  11. Healer Of Souls
  12. Hope Is The Anthem
  13. Light And Heavy*
  14. Begin Forever*
  15. When Was The Last Time*

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Boston Gives Portland a Little Peace of Mind

Boston Review Feature

With all that’s happening in the world today, it’s nice to just sit back, watch the pros and take a chance on rock ‘n’ roll.

Boston brought their 40th Anniversary tour to Portland, OR on Saturday to a lively and robust crowd at the Moda Center, setup in the smaller Theater of the Clouds amphitheater format, tackling all the fan favorites in a well-polished and consummate performance extending nearly two hours and 22 songs.

Tom Scholz, who is more or less Boston at this stage being the remaining founding member, ripped through classic song after classic song and a whole bunch of deep album cuts and seemingly never stopped playing whether it was for his signature guitar sound, signature keyboard sound or on acoustic guitar.

The band, make that Scholz, started things off with the very apropos “Star Spangled Banner” complete with a backing video of the American flag and then everyone else dropped in with “Rock & Roll Band.”

Boston Star Spangled Banner

Boston tore through three more classic radios cuts with “Smokin’,” “Feelin’ Satisfied,” and the quintessential “Peace of Mind.” Then a break from the traditional radio fare as they tackled deeper album tracks off their first three records like the very cool “Cool the Engines” with an awesome video backdrop of the signature guitar-shaped  spaceship which led right into “We’re Ready” continuing the space theme with a rocket launch video. Boston included “Higher Power” an ode to Alcoholics Anonymous recorded for their Greatest Hits  release in 1997 and of course dedicated their beloved ballad “Amanda” to everyone with the same name.

Tom Scholz

Tom Scholz, writer, guitarist, performer and conductor of Boston

Boston didn’t play anything off their latest Life, Love & Hope out in 2013 or Corporate America from 2002. But it was pretty clear they wanted to break out mostly the songs from the albums that’s kept the group delighting audiences for 40 years. Long time guitarist  Gary Pihl, who has worked on every Boston album since Third Stage back in 1986, asked the crowd if they wanted to hear anything off Life, Love & Hope or something from their 1976 self-titled debut album and clearly the crowd wanted a track from one of the best selling albums of all-time which brought forth “Peace of Mind.”

Despite the sometimes revolving door of members and the devastating loss of original singer Brad Delp in 2007 to suicide, Scholz has done wonders finding accomplished musicians to fill the void. Current singer Tommy DeCarlo who jumped on-board in 2007, does a solid job reaching those iconic high notes and duplicated Delp’s tone throughout the evening, really shining on “More than a Feeling,” “Foreplay/Long Time,” and “Used to Bad News” but a bit off for “I Think I Like It.”

Guitarist Beth Cohen sang on three songs which made little sense considering DeCarlo was handing the mic just fine and had the prowess to rise above the soaring guitars. Cohen’s vocals were completely washed out during “Long Time Segue” and “Higher Power” the latter she almost looked lost at times. She did pull through with “Walk On.”

Gary Pihl

Gary Pihl, guitarist for Boston

Regardless, Scholz’s mastery rules the stage. He’s the brains behind each and every song, all delivering straight up guitar-centered rock, somehow sounding like half a dozen guitarists on stage at any given time, yet it was just Scholz and the right-hand man in Pihl but when the two worked the fretboard together playing the same chords and riffs, it was spellbinding.

Big, bold and beautiful.

Scholz was not only never without an instrument in hand but rarely not playing. He left the stage once, briefly, during “Something About You” but when he wasn’t ripping off solos mid-song (nice smashing guitar work on the E jam instrumental!) he used them as segues between songs. By the way, he’s pretty adept on the keys, too.

Boston let it all out for the title track off 1994’s Walk On during an extended jam session as Scholz commanded the keyboards and turned fooling around with various sounds and instrumentation into an art form. That led right into “Foreplay/Long Time” which closed the opening set as Scholz remained behind the keys, allowing Pihl to lead on guitar but watching (and hearing!) the two jump on the acoustic section together injected new life into this oft played radio tune.

Dennis DeYoung

Dennis DeYoung – the Voice of Styx

Boston encored with the relaxing beat of “Used to Bad News” and “Party,” both off 1978’s Don’t Look Back. And, oh but they did. It was a most welcome and entertaining trip through the past.

Dennis DeYoung, the original singer for Styx, opened for Boston and played an exceptional hour-long 10 song set of all Styx songs including “Mr. Roboto,” “Babe” which he wrote for his wife in 1979 (who helped with back-up singing duties) that became a cornerstone of the Cornerstone album, and the iconic “Come Sail Away.”

At 69 years young, DeYoung looks more like a Presbyterian minister then a rock and roll singer but his vocals? Flawless. Sounds just like they did 40 years ago.  Considering he didn’t play any of his solo music, you have to wonder where it all went wrong and what could have been had the two sides of Styx figured out how to live with each other.

Boston – Portland (Moda Center) Setlist

  1. The Star Spangled Banner
  2. Rock & Roll Band
  3. Smokin’
  4. Feelin’ Satisfied
  5. Peace of Mind
  6. Long Time Segue
  7. Cool The Engines
  8. We’re Ready
  9. Higher Power
  10. I Think I Like It
  11. Don’t Look Back
  12. Something About You
  13. Amanda
  14. The Launch A) Countdown B) Ignition C) Third Stage Separation
  15. More Than a Feeling
  16. “E” Jam (instrumental)
  17. The Journey
  18. To Be A Man
  19. Walk On
  20. Foreplay / Long Time
  21. Used to Bad News
  22. Party

Written By: AndrewT