Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We're Awakening and Land of Broken Hearts Collab: "Hello Hurricane" Review Part 1

That's right, folks! Land of Broken Hearts and We're Awakening! are teaming up for a special, exclusive, Switchfoot-fan-filled collaboration to review the new "Hello Hurricane" record! Our friend Jeanna from LOBH and I will be presenting our reviews of the new songs, two a day, until the album premieres on Myspace next week. Should be fun, savvy? So without further ado, I present you with Part 1 of the LOBH/WA! "Hello Hurricane" review.



"Hello Hurricane."

Music is a journey. I often liken it to movement – movement is impossible without a purpose, or even an irritant; without it, it can't even be at all.

Switchfoot has always been that band for me that played its music with a purpose; they don't mail it in, just to get to the top of the charts. They're a band that lets the music speak for itself. It may sound a little obscure or general to say that Switchfoot is the epitome of what great musicians these days should be, but if anything, they're pretty close. They sing with passion, strum with gusto, and smash with intensity.

"Hello Hurricane" embodies the essence of that passion. It's that punk rock ethic that got them where they are today; "The Beautiful Letdown" wasn't an overnight hit. It's the passion and desire for the music to speak timeless truths to people that propels this band to greatness each day. It's the requirement that their own souls need to be soaring before delivering it to their audience.

Here, my friends, is a love offering. None of us will ever know how difficult or strenuous the process was for this album. What we do know and can appreciate is that this is Switchfoot in its essence, and that this was the hardest record for them to ever make. It's a really great album, and I feel unworthy to even review or critique this album, but here's my humble attempt to do so. Hope you like it!

"Hello Hurricane" Review, Part 1:

"Needle and Haystack Life"(5/5)

This is one of the better songs on the record, if not the best. The spacious guitar intro really gives the listener a wide visual canvas. The best way I can personally describe it is that it evokes images of falling water in outer space somewhere.

After the "waterfall" of sound, the song enters the verse, where the atmospherics are replaced with a stripped-down beat. The drum machine really provides contrast to the full-band intro.

Vocally, this song is diverse. Jon sings the low octave during the verse, and appropriately so, the lyrics introduce the album by saying "the world begins, with newborn skin, we are right now."

The song then begins to build during the pre-chorus, where Jon's voice also starts to rise in tone. He sings "You're breathing in, the highs and lows… we call it living!" before launching into the exultant chorus.

"In this needle and haystack life, I've found miracles there in your eyes."

There's enough atmospheric pull on this song to lift anyone's spirits. I definitely felt goosebumps, as well as a tingling down my spine.

You all will love this track.

"Mess of Me" (4/5)

The first single. The rocker of the album. The most aggressive Switchfoot song to date. All these phrases can be used to describe "Mess of Me," the second track on "Hello Hurricane." The first time I heard this song, way back in the summer, I thought it was a solid, catchy number, with the hooky riffs to go along with it. I was especially impressed by Jon Foreman's soaring vocals on the bridge, when he belted out "there aint no draaauuuuggg," desperately and emotively. Not often before has Jon stretched his voice to those limits.

When I first took a listen to the studio cut of this song (about a couple months ago, at this point), I was surprised by the rawness of the guitar fuzz. It hearkened back to the days of old when the band tracked their tunes without the modern amenities a major label would have afforded them –– but this was a beefier crunch than those earlier days.

The opening bursts of guitar sound eventually give way to Jon's bluesy vocals, which remind one of a '60's garage rock song. He and the rest of the band then launches into a rousing chorus, filled with enough distorted guitars to make Foo Fighters fans happy.

Switchfoot fans will undoubtedly be happy, especially my fellow "Nothing Is Sound" fans.


Hello Hurricane - A REVIEW

The very first time I heard this album, it was a pleasant summer evening in late July. I was sitting on a folding table in a tent, playing the album on Chad's iphone, surrounded by the five guys who poured their heart and souls into this piece of music. One headphone in. One headphone out. Trying to keep up with the conversation and take in the album at the same time. Music, thoughts, emotions and ideas swirled through my head, as we all laughed and talked about every random topic under the sun. I went away from that experience with a few dim memories of the songs and the album as a whole... vague impressions that I tried desperately to keep in my mind to replay later.

The main thought that I took away from that initial listen was that this album absolutely BURNED with smoldering energy. It was very, VERY intense emotionally. It was an emotional assault that didn't let up. Not once.

That first impression was dead on.

Hello Hurricane IS a storm. A storm of emotions. This album, more than any that Switchfoot has done, is an album that's trying to rip you apart.

I think it accomplished it's goal.

Sometimes it's difficult for me to review Switchfoot's music. These songs mean so much to me and I have a hard time stepping back and being objective. I tend to get "flowery" or overly poetic. I've found that my first impressions are often the most honest, so as I was listening to this album again, on a sunny October day, from the comfort of my home, on my own computer, I tried to scribble down some initial reactions so that I could maintain the integrity of my original thoughts.
I hope I was able to accomplish that and I hope you enjoy these reviews!

Needle And Haystack Life - 4 1/2 out of 5

I have a soft spot in my heart for the opening guitar riff of this song, partially because the guys are just so dang excited about it... as they should be. If you ever get a chance, ask Drew how he created that sound. It's a neat little story and it really makes you appreciate the musicianship and creativity the guys put into crafting these songs. It's a great way to start the record out... a subtle, majestic hint about what is to come.

This song is a fabulous album opener... it's sweeping, uplifting and it builds strongly to a soaring crescendo as Jon sings with passion, "It's no accident we're here tonight, we are once in a lifetime, alive!" The ending is abrupt and almost a little breathless, leaving your head spinning while you try to comprehend what just happened. It's a beautiful, hopeful song, full of plaintive lyrics and vocals.
I've heard some fans express worries, based on the previews, that this sound might sound a little "whiney" but let me assure you - those fears are completely unfounded. This song is full of emotion, for sure, but not once does it come across as whiney.

A perfect way to start this album.

Mess of Me - 5 out of 5

Ah Mess of Me. I LOVE Switchfoot's aggressive side and this song is a perfect canister to showcase that side of our favorite San Diego rockers. Jon's vocals in this song absolutely MAKE the tune for me... whether he's growling out the lyrics to the chorus or crying out "There ain't no drug!", his voice is spot on. One thing I noticed about this album is that Jon's voice carries an incredible amount of emotion throughout every single song. I've long since ceased trying to figure out how he does it, and instead, I simply enjoy the emotion as it comes. The emotion in this song is full of passion and an almost... defiance? A defiance against the norm. A battle cry to fight the cages of our modern culture and "spend the rest of my life alive."

I could rave for a couple more paragraphs (at least) about the bridge of this song. THAT BRIDGE is what people are going to walk away with. That's the bridge that's going to be running through their heads throughout the day. The musicianship underscores Jon's soaring vocals perfectly. This song is pounding, aggressive and intense. I guess if the album itself is a storm, then this is the... thunder?

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