Reviewed by Susan Lloyd
Oh! Gravity. by
"There's no question in my mind that Switchfoot has turned out its best cd yet."
Few bands have been able to turn out two albums in less than two years, much less have a significant evolution between the two. Switchfoot has managed to do that with it’s follow up to 2005’s Nothing is Sound. What started as an EP for the Grammy nominated band Switchfoot, turned into the stunning 6th album entitled Oh! Gravity. Jon Foreman, lead singer and songwriter for the group has stated that the recordings began just for fun and for the sake of recording. But with the addition of Steve Lilywhite and Tim Palmer to the production team, the project became more than just a fun EP. Oh! Gravity. was born with all five members of the band in the studio at the same time recording, discussing, reworking, and mainly feeling their way through the album, and it shows.
Whereas Nothing is Sound is weighty in sound and in subject matter, Oh! Gravity manages to stay thought provoking yet provide levity at the same time. The title track has the signature Switchfoot sound with giant guitar hooks created by Drew Shirley, a catchy chorus and of course lyrics that make the listener stop and think. Jon’s half yelled/half sung vocals on the chorus adeptly convey the bewilderment one encounters when observing that gravity forces us into position physically but does nothing to “keep us together” on an emotional or social level. The song also represents a step away from tamer sounds previously heard on multi-platinum disc The Beautiful Letdown.
Following “Oh! Gravity” is “American Dream” which could easily be turned into an anthem for this generation of students who are looking for more than monetary gains to equal success. The next track “Awakening” begins with an echoing primal call (voiced by Tim Foreman and Jerome when played in concert) and Chad Butler’s riveting snare drum intro. The energy never lets up in what could prove to be Switchfoot’s next mainstream hit.
Another standout on the CD is the innovative, alt-country sounding “Dirty Second Hands” co-written by long time friend of the band, Todd Cooper. Rhythmically, this is a very ambitious song. Chad Butler has been quoted as saying that it keeps him on his toes and is a challenge to play live. There are layers and layers of sound on this song, and over the top of it all is the twang of a dobro. Also, listeners should pay close attention to the background vocals. I love the interjection of breathy panting early in the song as it adds another layer to an already complex rhythmic structure. By far, this is one of Switchfoot’s greatest songs, and it shows a creative progression that most bands neglect if they become lost in formula pop.
My absolute favorite track is “4:12”. This bass driven, melodic account of one’s questioning of his purpose on this earth demands a second listen every time. I absolutely love what Tim Foreman does with the bass line. It’s beautifully played and constantly moving, providing the perfect foundation for the other instrumentation, including some interesting electronica infused in the second verse by keyboard master, Jerome Fontamillas.
The only thing I’m surprised about on this CD is the omission of the powerful song “The Sound in My Mouth”. This track is currently available on an EP (Oh! EP) that is being given away to fans with each merchandise purchase made at concerts. I was blown away by the lyrical content, the experimentation with sound, and the resonance of truth within the track
Overall, I’m most impressed with Jon Foreman’s vocals on each track. There are few lead vocalists who convey more passion with their delivery than Jon Foreman does, and the grit, growls and occasional falsetto he uses provide the perfect vocal texture for each song. And once again, Foreman has written lyrics that stay grounded in Truth. While there are no overt references to Foreman’s faith in Christ, the Truth is evident in abundance. I was especially challenged by the song “Burn Out Bright” and have begun to desire that I burn out bright for the Kingdom of God while I still have time on this earth.
There is much to discover on Switchfoot’s latest, and dare I say greatest CD. This disc demands that listeners focus carefully on all the layers, turns, lyrics, and passion that is poured into each track. You may not “get it” on the first spin, but trust me, continue listening and you’ll be hooked. There is no question in my mind that Switchfoot has turned out its best CD yet. Because there has been such forward movement on this project, I can’t wait to see what’s next!
Susan Lloyd is a professional photographer in Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in shooting concerts. She holds a degree in Music Education and has worked as a worship leader and as a youth minister. She is passionate about all types of music and enjoys encouraging and supporting bands who seek to glorify God. She also loves movies, animals, traveling, and making new friends. She and her husband have three kids and have been married for nearly 17 years. More info about Susan's photography can be found at www.susanlloydphotography.com or www.susieq3c.wordpress.com