I have followed Switchfoot since around 2003 with their fourth album ‘The Beautiful Letdown’ and now some 16 years later they bring us their eleventh studio album, ‘Native Tongue’ and yes, I am still a fan. The new album brings us more of the same and yet travels down a new road as well.
The album has a familiar Switchfoot sound that is at times pure rock, at times pure spiritual and at times au natural almost Earthy feel to it. They try so many different musical styles, including a little EDM, but they were able to keep it cohesive. That is in part to what seems to be a theme throughout and that is “Love”. Whether it is God’s love, human love and love on some different level, I don’t know, but the songs all seem to be connected.
The opening track, “Let it Happen” has this spiritual feel with a little bit of rock thrown in and the message to it about letting love just happen as well as letting life just happen. The rock comes in full force with “Native Tongue”. The heavy tribal drums and bass sound kick this up a notch and was a great choice as the first single. And then you get the church feel of “All You Need” and with that chorus I can picture a worship team singing it out loud during service.
One of my favorite tracks is the Beatlesque, “Dig New Stream” with it’s psychedelic feel and constant tempo and style changes. It was fantastic. “Joy Invincible”, you get an opening guitar that sounds like James Bay while the song has a more spiritual, peaceful feel to it. Then with “Prodigal Soul” you get full on honesty with Jon Foreman laying it all out with his struggles.
“Voices” and “The Hardest Art (feat. Kaela Sinclair)” both have some EDM elements whether it is the heavy bass in “Voices” or the pure on synthesizer feel of “The Hardest Art”. “The Hardest Art” is another song about Love. It is a little cheesy, but beautiful at the same time. They throw in a piano tune, “Wonderful Feeling”, and it does give you just that.
The rock comes back with “Take My Fire” which was need after a couple of slower songs. It is songs like this that keep me coming back again and again. “The Strength to Let Go” comes up next and the chorus is so anthemic and uplifting you can’t help but get drawn in and you feel a little invincible afterwards.
“Oxygen” is one that feels earthy to me. It has this flow to it that you feel like you are floating through the sky. While that is cool and all, it also wasn’t one that I liked as it was a little sappy. Maybe it will grow on maybe down the road. As far as cheesy goes, the next track takes it up a notch. “We’re Gonna Be Alright” is too chipper, too happy and just too everything. Great message, but…ugh! And the album ends with the piano ballad “You’re the One I Want”. It is nice and all, but doesn’t make you want to start the album over. I like an album to end with a band that makes you want to go through it again.
- Let It Happen – Keeper
- Native Tongue – Keeper
- All I Need – Keeper
- Voices – Keeper
- Dig New Streams – Keeper
- Joy Invincible – Keeper
- Prodigal Soul – Keeper
- The Hardest Art (feat. Kaela Sinclair) – Keeper/Delete (1/2 point)
- Wonderful Feeling – Keeper
- Take My Fire – Keeper
- The Strength to Let Go – Keeper
- Oxygen – Delete
- We’re Gonna Be Alright – Delete
- You’re the One I Want – Delete
The album is too long at 14 songs. Long albums had a time and place 10+ years ago, but nowadays the album should stay back around 10 songs. Now, the track score for this is 10.5 keepers out of 14 tracks or 75%. If they would have just kept it to 10 songs they might have gotten a perfect score…well depends on the 10 they kept I guess.
Overall score for the album is a 3.5 out of 5.0 stars. It isn’t their best, but it is far from their worse. I love that a band that has been around for over 20 years still has some juice left in them. The album’s message of love was well delivered with a vast variety of sonic tones and styles and kept me interested throughout. The variety of styles I think is what helped make this album so enjoyable as you didn’t know what was going to come next. Great job guys!!