After several years off, Switchfoot has reemerged with a documentary, tour and a new album, Fading West, which was released this week. The album reflects the year Switchfoot members spent exploring the world’s best surfing spots and redefining their identity as a band.
The result of this journey is a breezy album that occasionally dips into the band’s rock and roll background. The band uses layered vocals and relaxed guitars to create a chill, surfer vibe.
The first single from the album “Love Alone is Worth the Fight” is a soothing melody with a sound reminiscent of the ocean. Switchfoot chose to drop the rock anthems and guitar licks that have dominated their last two albums and instead focus on quieter, more musical pieces.
The album’s second single “Who We Are” starts out with a driven rhythm and quickly transforms into a pop anthem that sounds more like a Passion Pit song than something Switchfoot would produce. Although it is different from their usual sound, the song is catchy while maintaining Switchfoot’s commitment to pieces with lyrical depth.
On the whole, the album is a success. It combines Switchfoot’s signature smooth beats with the band’s love for surfing and a unique ocean vibe. However, some songs feel out of place. “When We Come Alive” tries too hard to be catchy, and “Say It Like You Mean It” doesn’t fit in with the softer sound evident on the rest of the album. Fading West is at its best when the earnestness of the lyrics and easiness of the music combine.
“The World You Want” is Switchfoot’s most nostalgic song, drawing comparisons to early hits like “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live.” This yearning ballad is Switchfoot at its best, lamenting the problems of the world and encouraging their listeners to do better.
The maturity of Switchfoot is compromised in songs such as “All Or Nothing At All” and “Let It Go” where the band sounds more like hormone driven teenagers than men with wives and children. It is in these attempts to capture the wildness of youth and portray themselves as rock gods that Switchfoot stumbles. Their attempts to attract a younger audience have the opposite effect of aging them and undermining their efforts on the rest of the album.
Despite these mishaps, overall Fading West is a solid album. The main problem is not with the music but with a loss of fans. When Switchfoot abandoned their acoustic sound for rock ballads on their last three albums, they alienated many of their listeners. Fading West is not necessarily a return to Switchfoot’s original roots but an exploration of a new sound, and for it to be successful, the band will need to reach an audience that they have largely lost. It is an album worth listening to, but will likely not receive the attention it deserves.