Friday afternoon, I found a medium flat-rate box in the mail with a return address of San Carlos, CA. Inside, encased in bubble wrap (that was quickly tossed aside) was the deluxe edition of the Switchfoot album Hello Hurricane–four days before the official release date (today!). The 84-page hardcover book contained lyrics, notes, and a story written by Jon Foreman about the album; photos of the band on tour, in-studio, and surfing; a full-size poster; a DVD detailing the making of the album, as well as live recordings; a CD of alternate mixes; and the 12-track album, the first album full of new material Switchfoot has released in nearly three years.
Before I listened to the album in its entirety, I had only listened to the song “Mess of Me” once. I wanted to wait and experience the music only when I had the CD in my hand, when I could read the lyrics as I heard them, when my focus could be almost totally on the music (which explains why I almost forgot about the cookies I was baking at the time).
I want to proclaim that this album is their best yet, and although I’ve initially believed that about every album, this one actually does blow my mind in how incredible the music is. The reason why Switchfoot is my favorite band is evident on this album: the music always meets me where I am. As my life evolves, so does the music, it seems. I listen to Switchfoot and wonder how Jon Foreman makes poetry out of the jumble of thoughts in my head. How do his words always seem to reflect what’s going on in my heart?
This album reveals the cycle of one’s life, or even one’s day. “Needle and Haystack Life,” the opening track, greets the new day, while “Red Eyes” seeks the rest that comes with hoping for a new beginning after the night is over. The progression from high-energy anthems to slow, introspective songs mirrors the triumph and tragedy of life. And through it all, one purpose is revealed: the world is wrong, messed up, but we fight for love anyway. Love is what drives us, frees us, redeems us.
So, song by song, here are my impressions of the album:
Track 1: “Needle and Haystack Life”
“The world begins / With newborn skin / We are right now”: it’s a great way to open the album. The song immediately presents the theme that is so prevalent in nearly every Switchfoot song: purpose. Life is no accident, even when it’s difficult.
Track 2: “Mess of Me”
This is the first single from the album. I’m really not surprised by the choice. It’s loud and energetic–much like “Oh! Gravity.” was for the album or “Meant to Live” was for The Beautiful Letdown. Thematically, it also works with those two songs: Yeah, we screw our lives up, but we must strive for a better life. My favorite lyrics for this song: “It’s hard to free the ones you love / When you can’t forgive yourself.” Truth is right there. And this is one example of how Switchfoot is so relevant to my life: so much of what we work through in Radius, what pervades my life as a believer, is how to be free and free others.
Track 3: “Your Love is a Song”
This third track slows the tempo down to almost a rock-ballad-like feel. After my second time through the album, I’d already pegged this one as my favorite on the album, and I was listening to it on repeat. If “Mess of Me” shows that we make mistakes, this track reminds us that redemption is available, and perfect love can conquer all. Hope is here. Thematically, this works perfectly with “Let Your Love Be Strong” from Oh! Gravity. and “Your Love is Strong” from Jon Foreman’s Spring EP. My favorite lyrics would be the whole song, so I’ll just post the chorus: “I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open / Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me / Your love is a melody / Underneath me / Running to me / Your love is a song.”
Track 4: “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues)”
[If you’re wondering who John Perkins is, check out his foundation’s website.]
This song picks up the tempo and blends the ideas of the two preceding tracks, while adding some incredible guitar work (and other stuff). The world is fallen and messed up: “This is the sound / From the discontented mouths / Of a haunted nation / We are the voice of breaking down.” What’s the cure? “Love is the final fight / Let it rise above / Rise above / There is no song / Louder than love.” When I start a revolution, this song will be on the soundtrack. 🙂
Track 5: “Enough to Let Me Go”
This is a quiet, aimless, melancholy tune, a nice break between the epicness of tracks 4 and 6. I want to know if there’s a story behind it, but it seems to be about the difficulties of relationship. “Do you love me enough to let me go? / To let me follow through / To let me fall for you?” While love might be what we’re fighting for, it’s not always easy. Sometimes, it hurts a lot.
Track 6: “Free”
Another anthemic song from the very first notes. I cannot wait to hear this song live–it’s gonna rock so hard. And, thematically…well, duh. Freedom again. This picks up where “Mess of Me” left off–we have to be free–from the chains we lock ourselves. The chorus: “Free / Come set me free / Down on my knees / I still believe you can save me from me.” When I see them play this live, and I’m in a crowd of fans screaming these lyrics, these words are gonna come from that desperate place deep inside all of us that desires to completely overcome the sinful, enslaved nature that prevents us from living the glorious life God has designed us to live. “There’s a hole in my heart but my hope / is not in me at all / I had a dream that my chains were broken / broken open / Free.”
Track 7: “Hello Hurricane”
This song is perfect for the album title. If “Free” gets our fighting spirit riled up, “Hello Hurricane” reminds us once more what we’re fighting for. We have to fight through our sufferings through the storms of life (or, you know, hurricanes). The song echoes the apostle Paul: “Everything I have I count as loss / Everything I have is stripped away.” How do we survive? The answer is always the same: “Hello hurricane / You can’t silence my love.”
Track 8: “Always”
Jon’s notes in the book describe this as a song about love “from the upstairs perspective.” We know that we’ll have to overcome adversity, and this is yet another reassurance that we are not alone in that battle. The last few lyrics of this song are the most beautiful. The words have my crying out that this is Truth: “Hallelujah! / Every breath is a second chance / And it is always yours / And I am always yours.”
Track 9: “Bullet Soul”
This will also be on my revolution soundtrack. It will also be incredible live. It’s so intensely anthemic–I want to be a “kid with a bullet soul.” And what will we be aiming for? Of course: “I want to turn up the radiation / I want to glow in the dark / Love is the one true innovation / Love is the only art.” Anyone else feel utterly consumed?
Track 10: “Yet”
Passion and intensity can’t be all of life, though. We have to slow down, which is evident in this much slower track: “I’m losing ground and gaining speed.” Even when we know what we’re fighting for, we lose sight and get caught up in confusion. This phase won’t last, and you’ll learn from it and come out stronger: “If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love / If it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough / It’s when you’re breaking down / With your insides coming out / That’s when you find out what your heart is made of / And you haven’t lost me yet.” This song is going to be such an encouragement on days when I lose sight and forget what really matters.
Track 11: “Sing It Out”
And the story continues: “I’ve lost the song of my soul tonight.” Jon’s notes describe this as an “apocalyptic hymn in first person present tense.” It begins with a lonely, ethereal, longing question. This song haunts me. This could be the story of anyone’s journey: crying out for the Father and grasping for the Truth that He is all we have. “I need your breath in my lungs tonight / Sing it out / I’m holding on / I’m holding on to you.” This is a song that’s gonna make me cry–in a good, cathartic sort of way–just when I need it most. It’s the most emotionally intense song on the album. Raw and genuine.
Track 12: “Red Eyes”
It’s fitting that the last track should reflect the close of the day when “Needle and Haystack Life” reflected the dawn. “What are you waiting for? / The day is done.” At the end of the day, when we’re exhausted and “nowhere feels like home,” we always have the hope of the next day to look ahead to. We have to keep moving. We must have hope. And, as a perfect way to end the song and the album, Jon’s voice echoes “In this needle and haystack life / I’ve found miracles there in your eyes / It’s no accident we’re here tonight / We are once in a lifetime.” He’s already reaching ahead, beginning the cycle over. We must join in.