Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jon Foreman – Fall and Winter

Switchfoot has been an interesting band to follow over the years. They got their start in San Diego and were signed by Charlie Peacock to his fledgling Re:think label around ten years ago. Charlie told me over dinner one night (yeah, I had to work that in) that he didn't produce their album because he didn't want to screw it up. He thought they were pretty cool and I did too. Then they hit the big time by placing songs from their album in at least one high profile movie and they've expanded their band from three to five full time members. They've solidified their sound and they've recently left their label to go indie. I wrote nice things about their latest album, Oh Gravity, in this blog before.

I've been impressed with the way Jon Foreman, lead singer and principal song writer, doesn't go for any obvious CCM-type images even though that would have been a safe way to go early on. Their music is fun, challenging and interesting. I was excited to see that they're coming to Calvin College for a concert next month. I've already got my ticket.

What I found most interesting lately, though, is that Foreman has begun releasing the first two of four EPs named after the seasons. Initially released as online downloads, the first two were gathered together in a 2-CD set and released to stores a little while ago. I got the Fall and Winter set last week and I'm quite impressed. These are songs that clearly wouln't work well in a full band setting. Most of these songs are Foreman's acoustic guitar, his voice, and limited other instruments like a cello, a small brass group or a bass clarinet, of all things. The focus in front and center on the vocals and the songs and they're really fine. Foreman's voice isn't the kind of voice that gets me excited – he hits all the notes but there is an untrained quality to it that, while it oozes authenticity, isn't all that great when stripped of the trappings of the band. But in this case it works and it works well. A hat tip to Foreman and executive producer and guest keyboard player Charlie Peacock – he said yes this time – for giving us an album that sounds both well produced and yet makes us feel like we're eavesdropping on the way Foreman sounds when he's alone in his home.

With an album like this the sound of it could easily run together and sound the same after a while but I listened to both of these in succession this morning with my ipod and I found that the arrangements are different enough (and the albums are short enough) that I didn't have a problem with that at all. I found myself enthralled by these EPs and I can't wait for Spring to show up.


Challenged_Romeo said...

i'm new to switchfoot, and i couldn't agree more with your raw vocals description. it's one of the reasons why i find the music so soothing sometimes.

good review!!

DJ said...

Finally, somebody who noticed that Jon's voice really isn't all that great. I heard him live with Switchfoot on the Music Builds tour, and he was so off key live it was pitiful. When all the bands came out to sing together, the sound technicians noticeably turned his mic down 1/4 through the song because his "untrained quality” became very apparent against the other lead singers. I consider him to be like his idol Bob Dylan--one who writes good lyrics at times but can't really measure up vocally. Don't get me wrong, he's an admirable guy who should be recognized for his ability to connect with his listeners. I'd love to hear his song retooled and performed by more capable musicians as some of Dylan's were; they'd probably be exceptional then.