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Seasons EPS - Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

by Jon Foreman

Reviewed by Susan Lloyd

"Foreman has succeeded at doing something very few artists have been able to do. He has forged a solo set that, save for his trademark vocals and stellar lyrical style, sounds nothing like his band Switchfoot."

Jon Foreman, front man for Switchfoot, has just released Limbs and Branches, a twelve track compilation of his recently finished four EP set. While I’m sure there will be many who skipped writing or reading a review on the full set, preferring to wait for the compilation instead, it’s been my desire and also my privilege to write on the collection as a whole. In fact, I think in order to fully understand the width and breadth of the project, the entire thing has to be digested as one entity. This seasonal collection of EP’s, Foreman’s first release off of Switchfoot’s new label Lowercase People is weighty and ambitious. And it’s simply amazing.

Spring Summer Foreman
Just as each EP was named for the season in which it was released, each one was also built to reflect the sentiments and tones seem to accompany its namesake. Fall is full of songs expressive of the beauty but is liberally laced with the dread thought of the impending death and dormancy that comes with winter. For example, Fall includes “Lord Save Me from Myself”, the anguished cry of a man who is fully aware of his bent towards self destruction. But the lament of that song is countered by the ethereal “My Love Goes Free”, a song that conveys the understanding that true love must be conceived in the concept of hope and freedom. Continuing the seasonal theme, Winter contains the chilling story of the senseless and lonely death of a homeless woman (“Somebody’s Baby”) yet hope is infused once again by Foreman’s inclusion of the exotic “In Love”. Spring is livelier in tone without resorting to fluff and contains possibly the strongest song in the set “Your Love is Strong”. The impactful track is a soaring praise song based on Matthew 6 and 7. Summer rounds out the year’s collection with the organic percussive “Resurrect Me” and the more profound Again. It is remarkable that Jon Foreman has effectively translated his perceptions of the seasons into chord progressions, rhythmic patterns, and lyrical poetry without ever once resorting to songs that merely describe the seasons or the cliché’s we’ve come to associate with each one.

Fall Winter ForemanWhile the seasonal breakdown is the obvious way to review all twenty-four songs in the set, it’s possible to classify the songs by content as well. Love songs, songs of worship, songs that tell stories, those that proclaim prophesy, and songs of blunt confession are all included in each EP. And Foreman has used a rare transparency to bare his soul to all who will listen to these incredibly intimate songs. The lush love songs aren’t full of romantic notions but instead speak the truth about commitment, longing, and imperfection. The most aching of those love songs is “Southbound Train”, a cello backed heart breaker that expresses the deep sadness incurred when leaving a loved one behind. The most hopeful of those songs is “In My Arms” where Foreman almost sings in a whisper as if singing any louder will somehow disturb the impending reunion of two lovers who’ve endured a time apart. “Instead of a Show” is pure prophecy taken from the books of Isaiah and Amos, and I suspect that Foreman wrote the rebuke as much to himself as he did to the modern day church. “In Love, House of God Forever” (based on Psalm 51) and the stunningly raw “Cure for the Pain” are all songs that expose the depth of Foreman’s faith. Because Foreman is a skilful lyricist, never does any song come across as sappy or insincere in spite of such raw exposure

Musically, Foreman has written songs that in many cases do not follow the typical verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus format, and thankfully so. He also explores uncommon time signatures (“Moon is a Magnet” is written in 9/4!) and employs unusual instruments and combinations of such. The sitar is used in “In Love” and “Resurrect Me” while cello becomes almost foundational on both Fall and Winter. Foreman also seems to have a love affair for the harmonica, the bass clarinet, and the piano as all make more than one appearance throughout all four EP’s.

For the sake of harmony, Foreman has graciously included the vocal contributions of wife Emily, her sister Sarah Masen, and friend Molly Jenson. All five Switchfoot members made contributions, either instrumentally or in post production, and Foreman leaned heavily on Keith Tutt for the gorgeous cello arrangements that appear throughout. For a solo effort, it’s a fairly strong collaboration of musical talent.

Lyrically, it’s hard to top Foreman in the modern day world of song writing. Reading the lyrics proves to be almost as much of a cerebral treat as listening to them does. Lines like

I could try and point the finger
But the glass points in my direction
Sure you've got your sharp edges
But my wounds are from my own reflection

You've got nothing I could ever hold against you
I got fatal flaws to call my own

Please don't go, please don't leave me alone
A mirror is so much harder to hold

(A Mirror is Harder to Hold-Summer EP)

are as poetic as they are telling, and Foreman creates such loveliness throughout the entire set. His liberal use of metaphor is matched by his directness and the combination of the two is so skillfully done that nothing ever seems forced or awkward.

Foreman has succeeded at doing something very few artists have been able to do. He has forged a solo set that, save for his trademark vocals and stellar lyrical style, sounds nothing like his band Switchfoot. By comparing the two bodies of work, the listener enjoys a more profound appreciation for Foreman as an artist and comes to a greater understanding of the depth of contribution that all band members of Switchfoot have when creating their own albums. Foreman has also given us songs that while they may never achieve mainstream success, they will stand the test of time because of their musical depth and lyrical content. I am sure that as the years pass, these songs will continue to challenge me, inspire me, and allow me to see into the heart of a man whose life and faith journey have been beautifully captured in song.

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