Bands typically can’t withstand the test of time, but Switchfoot is an exception. The San Diego-based five-man band released its 11th studio album, Native Tongue, on Friday. 

The album marked the first LP for the band since its three-month hiatus – the band’s first break in its 23-year history – last year. Varying in genre, the 14-track album exudes good vibes and shows Switchfoot hasn’t gone anywhere; instead, it has just gotten better with time.

Although mainly labeled as a Christian band, Switchfoot doesn’t want that to necessarily deter people from its music. Frontman Jon Foreman told The Boston Globe this in 2004: “For us, these songs are for everyone. Calling us ‘Christian rock’ tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them, and that's not what we're trying to do. Music has always opened my mind – and that's what we want.”

Switchfoot inevitably includes songs on its albums that don’t seem to flow smoothly with the rest of the track listing – and Native Tongue is no different. The title track contains a lovely message but fails to successfully intermix that well instrumentally. “Dig New Streams” doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do. “Take My Fire” includes an enthralling guitar line but is all over the place vocally. 

The album, however, is incredible overall and the brief hiatus may have been just what Switchfoot needed. Native Tongue shows bands can change up their sound and make it work. Switchfoot continues to release tracks that emanate its familiar rock sound, but even its newer, softer tunes encompass something everyone can love. 

Here is a breakdown of the best five tracks from the album:

5. “Prodigal Soul”

Commanded by an acoustic guitar, soft drumming and enticing violins, “Prodigal Soul” is a depiction of Foreman repenting his sins and asking God to help him get to Heaven whenever that time comes. Blatantly referring to the parable of the Prodigal Son where a father accepts his son’s apology after betraying their family, Foreman seeks to attain forgiveness for his mistakes from the ultimate Father, God. Foreman pleads: “I am Yours and Yours alone / Forgive me for wandering on my own / I’m a prodigal soul and I want to come home.” The evident passion in Foreman’s vocals throughout the track’s entirety is commendable and appreciated, and it allows listeners to gain a sense of just how sentimental the band truly is.

4. “All I Need”

This track could really be Switchfoot’s next hit. Reminiscent of “Live It Well” from Switchfoot’s 2016 album, Where The Light Shines Through, “All I Need” is about self-doubt but also serves as a reminder that time heals all, the good will always outweigh the bad and to appreciate the love we have right now. Foreman reminds himself and all listeners: “All I need is the air I breathe, the time we share and the ground beneath my feet / All I need is the love that I believe / Tell me love: do you believe in me?” Supported by soothing instrumentation, this feel-good track comprises warmth and love, and it sounds like it was specifically made for radio play.

3. “Let It Happen”

Set as the opening track for the album, “Let It Happen” consists of overtly simple lyrics, but it becomes so much more worthwhile after it’s given more listens. The invigorating guitars, the aggressive drumming, the rasp of Foreman’s voice, the compelling harmonies — they all flawlessly blend to create an uplifting ballad that could revitalize any lost soul. Foreman provides a plea for those grappling with the inevitable problems that life entails: “Let it happen, let it happen / Tomorrow knows what tomorrow knows / You can’t make it get here sooner.” The guitar solo that ensues within the last two minutes is exhilarating and provides listeners more than enough to become a fan favorite.

2. “The Strength to Let Go”

This is top-tier Switchfoot. Backed by smooth drumming, faint strumming and peaceful synths, “The Strength to Let Go” dissects the story of Foreman having to conquer his demons and latch onto the goodness he had previously let go. The vigor in Foreman’s vocal delivery reminds us all what music is really about: catharsis and solace. Foreman admits: “I was trying to pretend I was fine when inside it was war with the stumbling beat of my heart and my feet, and the faults of my failures and pains / To think all of this time, I had wings that were ready to soar.” The relatability behind the track’s message can easily resonate with a multitude of people who struggle with the same issues every day. That combined with the exquisite instrumentation makes for an irresistibly sensational track.

1. “Oxygen”

“Oxygen” is a song that’s as instrumentally dreamlike as they come. Made perfect by gloomy piano chords and captivating guitars, “Oxygen” portrays how it feels to be hurt by the people you love the most. The instrumentation puts you in a state of bliss because that’s how you long to feel after being emotionally wounded; it contrasts with the intense lyrics, and it works so well that way. Foreman reveals how this breakup has deeply affected him: “You walked away and I saw fireworks imploding frame by frame / Like watching a movie in slow motion, I’m miles away / Up like a rocket ship ascends, it’s drifting up into space / And I’m running out of oxygen.” The ethereal beauty of Foreman’s voice mixed with the blatant emotion and profound lyricism allows “Oxygen” to be one of Switchfoot’s best songs to date after 23 years, obviously making it the best on Native Tongue.

Rating: 8.5/10

@bre_offenberger

bo844517@ohio.edu

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