Switchfoot has solidified their place in the music world over the course of eleven albums after first becoming household name with the anthems “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move.” One might think that with a career spanning 23 years they would be locked into a sound and not pushing boundaries. Switchfoot however has never shied away from expressing their thoughts emphatically or exploring new ways to express their musicality.
Native Tongue begins with the raucous “Let it Happen.” This song has a driving melody, but lyrically speaks about finding the meaning of life with lyrics such as, “This life is hollow and mostly borrowed, the voices are screaming, but where is the meaning? Noisy crescendos behind closed windows.” The album moves further into exploring life’s meaning with “Native Tongue.” This upbeat song drives the message home through melodic tones, guitars, and lyrics such as, “love is your language, love is your native tongue.” Switchfoot has always seemed to want to bring unity through their music, and tracks like this are no different.
The third track on the album, “All I Need,” is more of a ballad in nature. It is still full of lyrical content speaking of needing love and connectedness, as the chorus rings out in Jon’s clear vocals: “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 in– tell me love, do you believe in me?”
The fourth track kicks into overdrive. “Voices” seems ambiguous in its meaning at first listen, even if the music and lyrics do draw you in. The meaning can be found in the bridge: “every moment crowded with choices, speak to me and drown out the voices.” While it is not clear who the person is speaking in this line, one could think that it might be God, speaking through the noises of life, and a conscience trying to push through distractions.
The album moves to the fifth track, “Dig New Streams,” which is a completely different sound than the previous four tracks, leaving the listener wondering what the next track is going to entail. It also shows that Switchfoot is never one to play it safe musically or lyrically. This song once again speaks of love and unifying differing sides, something that is not unheard of on previous Switchfoot albums like Where the Light Shines Through with the song “Looking for America” or the track “Politicians” off of Nothing is Sound.
The sixth track shifts into an easy to love track, “Joy Invincible.” It is in a different gear than what has been heard in the previous five tracks. The vocals are ethereal when you hit the chorus, with lyrics like “Hallelujah nevertheless, was the song the pain couldn’t destroy. Hallelujah nevertheless, you’re my joy invincible.” This song is one that makes you smile at its lighthearted sound and will be one that may end up being hummed after a listen. The next track, “The Hardest Art,” follows the same vein with a more melodic sound. This track is definitely a surprise from Switchfoot, as it is a different sound musically for them. Kaela Sinclair’s guest vocals marry well with Jon’s in this pop-synthesized track with some great lyrical content:
“Every movie makes love seem easy
They fall in love like the fire burns.
And maybe I’m the only one,
but it feels like love is the hardest art to learn.”
The last seven tracks of this album follow the same pattern as the first seven tracks. They leave the listener guessing what will be next on this musical roller coaster of an album. You have driving tracks like “Can’t Take My Fire” and “We’re Gonna Be Alright,” while mixed in between are moving ballads like “The Strength to Let Go” and the album closer “You’re the One I Want.”
If fans of Switchfoot thought the first album out of hiatus was going be a rehashing of something already done in the band’s storied career, this album tells a different story. It tells a story of life, love, seeking, searching, and redemption. If this is the culmination of 23 years, it is exciting to see what the guys from San Diego, CA bring to their next album!
This review was contributed by Sharayah Franklin.