Personnel: Switchfoot (programming); Mike Elizondo, Neal Avron, Eric Owyoung (programming).
Audio Mixer: Neal Avron.
Photographers: Alan Van Gysen; Chris Burkard; Brian Nevins.
San Diego's Switchfoot made a splash in the early and mid-2000s with such hit singles as "Dare You to Move" and "Stars." Those songs showcased Switchfoot's anthemic, passionate guitar-based rock sound and helped secure their position as one of the most successful Christian rock bands on the secular pop scene. Since then, Switchfoot have released several albums that found them experimenting with various pop sounds that moved them away from the straightforward punk-influenced rock of their earlier work. Switchfoot's ninth studio album, 2014's Fading West, continues in this varied creative direction with a batch of songs inspired by the band's love of surfing. Recorded in tandem with a worldwide tour of well-known surf spots, captured on the 2013 Fading West documentary, the album is an upbeat, uplifting affair. The band, once again centered around lead singer/songwriter Jon Foreman, returns to both its musical roots and its beach and surf culture roots. The result is an album that at once pushes Switchfoot's sound forward, while displaying the band's long-running knack for melodic, catchy pop songs. Essentially, Fading West finds the group splitting the difference between the anthemic guitar-based uplift of 2003's The Beautiful Letdown and the more post-punk/dance-rock-inclined approach of 2006's Oh! Gravity. Tracks like "Say It Like You Mean It" and "Who We Are" bring to mind Achtung Baby-era U2, while other cuts like "Slipping Away" and "Let It Out" fit nicely alongside work by more contemporary bands like OneRepublic. Ultimately, much like riding a surfboard from wave to wave, Fading West moves from earnest ballads to dancey, groove-oriented cuts to breezy, sunshine-soaked rockers with an easy, athletic flow. ~ Matt Collar