Switchfoot's 7th album (and 3rd after their mainstream hit record Beautiful Letdown) Hello Hurricane signals a rebirth for the band that in many ways parallels Beautiful Letdown. Like that album, this was their first time recording the album independently without the pressures of a major record contract (they had chosen to part ways with Columbia in 2008 and negotiated their current deal with Atlantic Records only after finishing the album). In fact, it was a challenging 2 years working on the album because they had TOO much freedom, which included tracking over 80 songs and building their own studio in their hometown of San Diego.
However, after this trying journey they rediscovered their sound and their identity, emerging with their best and most well-rounded album since The Beautiful Letdown, which has an excellent blend of what the Switchfoot sound and identity consists of: passionate and hard-hitting rock anthems (eg. Mess of Me, Free, Bullet Soul) to the soulfully mellow ballads (eg. Sing It Out, Your Love is a Song) to the catchy almost pop-rock hits (eg "Hello Hurricane," "Needle and Haystack Life," and "Yet"), all with thought-provoking and soul-searching lyrics. While you may not appreciate every track equally given the variety of styles as described, you won't find a bad track in the album. If you've liked any Switchfoot album in the past, this will definitely quickly become one of your favorites (if not the favorite).
1) Needle and Haystack Life (4.5/5) - A catchy rock tune with U2-reminiscent verses that give way to classic Switchfoot soaring vocals in the chorus. If I had to compare it with a previous Switchfoot song, it reminds me of "Dare You To Move." Lyricly, it discusses the beauty and miracle in human life: "In this needle and haystack life / I found miracles there in your eyes / It's no accident we're here tonight / We are once in a life time."
2) Mess of Me (4/5)- This was their first single and has been receiving steady airplay. This reflects the progression and maturity of Switchfoot as a rock band: it utilizes a heavy electric guitar riff, driving drum beat, and includes a bold bridge. What stands out the most to me is the way that lead singer Jon Foreman injects passion into every syllable, as he sings "I want to spend the rest of my life alive!"
3) Your Love Is a Song (4.5/5) - Self-described as a third in a trilogy of songs ("Let Your Love Be Strong" from Oh! Gravity, and "Your Love is Strong" from Jon Foreman's "Limbs and Branches" EP) as he contemplates the concept of love and grace. This is the first of several slower ballads, which are personally some of my favorite songs on the album. Lyrically and musical, this is a beautiful song: "oh Your love is a symphony / all around me, running through me / oh Your love is a melody, underneath me, running to me."
4) The Sound (John M. Perkins Blues) (4/5) - Another edgy rock track in the vein of "Mess of Me," this consists of strong electric riffs that blend into a melodic pre-chorus which ultimately leads into a punctuated, hard-hitting chorus. While the intensity and borderline shouts in the chorus can be off-setting and harsh at times, it reflects the rawness of emotion that the band experiences as they cry out for the world to be transformed by a movement defined by love.
5) Enough to Let Me Go (4/5) - This is more of a light rock love song with evidences of influence from U2. It is driven by a simple yet beautiful acoustic guitar riff accompanied by a steady beat and the occasional electric guitar ornamentation. It explores the theme of how love actually requires faith and letting go. "Do you love me enough to let me go? / To let me follow through / to let me fall for you?"
6) Free (5/5)- My personal favorite of the harder rock songs, I think it represents the perfect blend of edginess, passion, and melody without becoming overly punctuated (ie some of the shouts/screams in "The Sound" and "Bullet Soul"). Lyrically, Jon Foreman is crying out to be liberated from himself, often using the powerful line "Inside this shell there's a prison cell."
7) Hello Hurricane (4.5/5) - The title-track of the record, this song is a catchy rock hit that could see success on multiple formats (Rock, Alternative, Pop), much like "Needle and Haystack Life." This song discusses the theme of overcoming hardships and tragedies: "hello hurricane, you can't silence my love / I'm a fighter fighting for control."
8) Always (5/5) - Already a hit on inspirational radio stations, this song is a ballad that discusses the timeline of human life, beginning with infancy/entering this world, transitioning to heartbreak/tragedy, and then finishing with restoration/peace that comes with surrendering one's life and doubts. This song reminds me most of "On Fire" from The Beautiful Letdown, which is definitely a great thing.
9) Bullet Soul (3/5) - The last of the harder rock anthems, this was personally my least favorite track on the album, but many listeners could very well rank it among the highest, depending on which end of the musical spectrum (from mellow to heavy) they enjoy most. I personally found some of the "screams" near the edge of the album off-setting. However, like stated previously, I could see many listeners liking this song for the same reasons.
10) Yet (4.5/5) - A steady lighter rock song with a cool, laid-back, yet driving feel. The blend of bass guitar and rhythm (created both synthetic and actual drums) with Jon's soothing voice make this song one of my favorites. Lyrically, this songs poses a very thought-provoking statement when Jon sings: "if it doesn't break your heart, then it isn't love."
11) Sing It Out (5/5) - After a few listens, this song has became my favorite track on the album. Completely in line with the thoughts expressed by the lyrics, the verses really embody a feeling of "lostness," in which there is no clear sense of rhythm and just an underlying pool of noise. Then, the soaring vocals emerge from the depths to cry out "Sing it out, Sing it out / Take what is left of me / and make it a melody." The haunting music penetrated by hopeful vocals reflect the hope that brings comfort during dark times.
12) Red Eyes (4/5)- this song signals an emergence from the now-passed hurricane (described by Jon Foreman at a recent concert), opening with a peaceful and melodic hailing of bells and chimes. Now that darkness has passed, Jon focuses on maintaining a perspective that is focused on not becoming complacent and falling back into the routine of life. Rather, he reminds us to focus on the grander themes of life, such as wonder, forgiveness, and hope. The album closes by giving way to evidences of chaos and some lyrics of the first track, signaling the cyclic nature of hurricanes.