Switchfoot - Fading West cover

Switchfoot has had a varied history. Originally starting out as an indie rock band, they were drawn in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) circles when the indie label they signed to was bought by a major CCM company. This made them an almost exclusively CCM band, not necessarily by choice, for the first part of their career. They’ve since signed to a major label, left said label, started their own label, toured consistently supporting various causes, and made a film about their surfing life. That is where their 9th studio album, Fading West, comes into play serving as the soundtrack to the film of the same name.

Switchfoot’s sound is easily described as alternative rock. They started with more of an indie sound and layered instrumentation and sounds in from there. However, it isn’t where they stop. Each album has a bit of eclecticism to it, some more than others. This album is no exception. The sound is all over the map and at the same time very much Switchfoot to its core.

There are some straight ahead rock numbers on the album. There are the requisite slow ballads. There are also some songs that defy convention all by themselves. “Who We Are” starts off with a repeated chant of “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” and moves on to a staccato reciting of lyrics, backed by a choir of children during the chorus. The next track entitled “When We Come Alive” sounds like a cut straight off of the last Coldplay album, with a bit that is reminiscent of parts of Daft Punk’s  Random Access Memory and a dash of Mumford and Sons sprinkled throughout. And that’s just three tracks into the album, but rest assured the rest of the album takes many of the same twists and turns.  There are also a couple of numbers that are begging for live performances.  I can imagine arenas full of fans chanting along with “When We Come Alive” or “Slipping Away.”  Both have a call and response quality to them reminiscent of big hits from the aforementioned Coldplay or U2.

Ultimately this is a soundtrack album though. During the tour for the album they will be opening with the film itself. To be clear, you don’t have to see the film to appreciate this album. However, knowing that the film follows their travels around the world recording and surfing I can almost guarantee the album works as a soundtrack. There are tracks I can see being played as band members catch a big wave. There are tracks make it easy to imagine a small van traveling over a dusty road in a far off country, heading for a beach that is largely untouched by man. I don’t know if those scenes are in the film, but I can see them when I listen to the album.

So for me the album accomplishes what it sets out to do. While it probably isn’t my favorite Switchfoot album, it is still a strong release. Even in playing a diverse mix, the sound of Switchfoot is in every song.
Here is the trailer for the film which also works pretty well as a trailer for the album.

Fading West
lowercase people/Atlantic
January 14th, 2014

Overall Score
90 %

A strong release from the band, but not their best work.

Lyrics 95%
Music 85%
Album flow 90%

About The Author

System analyst by financial necessity. Writer by necessity of expression. DJ because music is in my Top 5 essentials for living. I grew up on a steady diet of comic books, science fiction/fantasy, and a wide variety of musical genres.

In addition to writing for Destroy the Cyborg I also produce a weekly podcast at Idiosyncratic Transmissions.

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