Switchfoot – Interrobang: Are we doomed to disagreeā€½

Artist: Switchfoot
Album: Interrobang
Year: 2021
Grade: B

In Brief: This might be the first Switchfoot album that I remember more for the lyrics than the music. Not to say that the music is unmemorable, or that they didn’t write good songs in the past… It’s more that Interrobang is an introverted record where Switchfoot often goes small in places where they might otherwise be tempted to go big. The result is a more personal record about navigating conflict and ideological division in our society, that resists the temptation to come up with big, sweeping, feel-good answers to the urgent questions that inspired it.

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Future of Forestry – Remember: Highly Forgettable

Artist: Future of Forestry
Album: Remember
Year: 2021
Grade: C

In Brief: A disappointingly limp and meager offering from a long-time favorite artist of mine. This is the first time in Future of Forestry’s 15-year existence that I’ve been truly disappointed, not because a sudden genre shift was difficult to adjust to, but because it seemed like a repetition of old patterns with a distinct lack of anything evocative or imaginative to say. These 8 songs are all immaculately arranged, and performed with the most heartfelt of emotions, but I think FoF has finally reached the tipping point where its sound is too darn professional for its own good.

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Jon Foreman – Departures: I’m sure you’ve got your reasons, but I have my doubts.

Artist: Jon Foreman
Album: Departures
Year: 2021
Grade: B-

In Brief: While it’s always nice to hear what’s on Foreman’s mind, the lack of an obvious theme on his third solo release makes it a little more difficult to track with some of the individual songs or understand how they fit into the overall picture. The mostly low-key, folksy style gets a little monotonous as the album wears on, but there are some instrumental surprises as well as a few guest vocalists and producers to help add color to the sound here and there. Departures is a good record with lots of insightful songwriting, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the potential realized on his seasonal EPs and The Wonderlands.

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Tyson Motsenbocker: Someday I’ll Make It All Up to You: I want better days to miss.

Artist: Tyson Motsenbocker
Album: Someday I’ll Make It All Up to You
Year: 2020
Grade: B-

In Brief: Sound-wise, this is pretty standard singer-songwriter fare, but I do appreciate Tyson’s observational skills as he engages in warm nostalgia on some tracks while openly questioning its value on others. From easygoing love songs to a witty rumination on the deconstruction of a person’s faith, he’s got a good variety of subject matter here that just needs more of a distinctive musical stamp to really help him stand out from the pack.

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Switchfoot and Colony House live @ The Wiltern: Bands of Brothers

You know you’re a huge fan of a band when a friend asks you how many times you’ve seen them live, and you realize you’ve lost count. It’s funny, because I haven’t really considered myself a massive Switchfoot fan for quite a while, probably since the mid-2000s when The Beautiful Letdown hit it big, and was admirably followed up by Nothing Is Sound and Oh! Gravity. Paradoxically, that’s my favorite era of Switchfoot’s discography, and yet I got to the point where I became downright sick of the most well-known songs from those albums being must-plays in their setlists. It’s probably because I saw them live several times that decade, and when I see a band live multiple times, I prefer to hear them play stuff from their newer albums, or if they’re gonna play old stuff, I’d like to hear a few I’ve never heard live before. The Beautiful Letdown is my favorite Switchfoot album (an area where I’d guess I’m agreement with the majority of their fans), but I’d be perfectly fine never hearing that album’s heavy-hitters “Dare You to Move”, “This Is Your Life”, or “Meant to Live”, from them ever again. I love those songs. A ton of other people do too, and I guess I can’t fault someone who shows up, never having seen the band before, for wanting the trip down memory lane. It was because of this (and a string of less than impressive albums in the late 2000s/early 2010s) that I cooled off on seeing them live for a while after witnessing a just-OK live set on their tour for Vice Verses in 2011. (Even then, there were a couple of Fiction Family shows in between, and the Jon Foreman solo show I went to this time last year, because he is simply one of my favorite people in the entire universe.) This year’s Native Tongue isn’t really one of my favorite albums of theirs, either, but 2016’s When the Light Shines Through was a pleasant surprise that seemed a bit underrated among the fanbase, and I kicked myself for missing out on their tour with Relient K that year (who themselves had just put out the startlingly excellent Air For Free). When they announced a tour with Colony House slated for this spring, I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.

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Switchfoot – Native Tongue: My Lord, we forgot our sound.

Artist: Switchfoot
Album: Native Tongue
Year: 2019
Grade: B-

In Brief: Eh… it’s another Switchfoot album. A little heavier on the ballads and programming than I would like, but it’s not terrible. Every now and then, the band tries something inventive here that updates their sound just enough to not seem like it’s old hat. But a lot of it is Switchfoot by the numbers, which admittedly is kind of a tricky thing for them to avoid now that they’re 11 albums deep into their career.

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I’m With Her – See You Around: Hey, it’s a better band name than “Make Americana Great Again”.

Artist: I’m With Her
Album: See You Around
Year: 2018
Grade: B-

In Brief: A smart but subdued folk/bluegrass record from an all-female trio that at times appears to be holding back the full power of their vocal harmonies and songwriting skills. This took a while for me to fully get into, but I can now say that I’m with I’m With Her.

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Jon Foreman live @ Azusa Pacific University: Terminal Bliss

Jon Foreman’s “25 in 24” tour provided not only a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse at how his unlikely feat of performing 25 shows in 24 hours came to be a few years ago, but also reminded fans of just how deeply his conviction to live each and every hour of life he’s been given to the fullest still runs. This was a breathtaking show, with unique arrangements of songs from Foreman’s solo albums and a few fan-selected Switchfoot tracks, revealing entire new worlds of possibility behind even songs I’d known and loved for close to two decades.

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Future of Forestry – Awakened to the Sound: In my voice you will know the sound of home.

2016_futureofforestry_awakenedtothesound

Artist: Future of Forestry
Album: Awakened to the Sound
Year: 2016
Grade: B

In Brief: It’s a stretch these days to call Future of Forestry a “rock” band. This album is much more like a film score. Exciting, climactic percussion sounds abound on a few tracks, bringing back fond memories of the Travel series, but as a whole this record is something else, weaving Eastern-styled strings, drums and vocals into a much more classical-oriented take on the Future of Forestry sound.

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Switchfoot – Where the Light Shines Through: Turn it up so I can feel it!

2016_Switchfoot_WheretheLightShinesThrough

Artist: Switchfoot
Album: Where the Light Shines Through
Year: 2016
Grade: B+

In Brief: A strong comeback from Switchfoot after a trilogy of mediocre to mildly good albums. It doesn’t radically revamp their sound, but the new things that they do try here do a lot to revitalize it. It just feels like they tried a lot harder with this one, and that’s all I need from a band that could easily just keep repeating itself at this stage in its career.

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