By Andy Argyrakis
With Switchfoot’s 11th studio album, Native Tongue, coming right around the corner on January 18, it’s an ideal time to rank and recommend Switchfoot’s 10 other projects. So read on, get ready to recall over two decades’ worth of tunes and weigh in on where they wound up on CCM’s rundown!
1. The Beautiful Letdown
The double platinum breakthrough from 2003 is thus far the band’s commercial and critical peak, plus the collection that launched the spiritually and socially conscious Switchfoot into full-fledged crossover territory. “Meant To Live” and a refreshed edition of “Dare You To Move” are just a few of the driving alternative rock singles that enshrined the effort on Billboard’s “200 Albums of the Decade” list.
2. Hello Hurricane
It may not have dropped until 2009, but Hello Hurricane could very well be considered an updated bookend of The Beautiful Letdown. The surf-inspired sounds and massive melodies of Hurricane reign supreme, as illustrated by chart-toppers “Mess Of Me,” “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues)” and more, which surely contributed to the group’s “Best Rock Gospel Album” Grammy.
3. Vice Verses
Turning up the guitars well past 11, 2009’s Vice Verses is one of the most aggressive and insistent sets in Switchfoot’s vast catalog. The guys dug even deeper lyrically, acknowledging “every blessing comes with a set of curses” on the title track and rolling up their sleeves to candidly address each side of the coin.
4. Oh! Gravity.
Coming a mere year on the heels of Nothing Is Sound, 2006’s Oh! Gravity. found members in solid creative stride, but switching to darker stylistic experiments compared to the sunnier sounds of their prior mainstream domination. However, that grittiness and the pensive perspectives give cuts such as “Dirty Second Hands” and “Awakening” the lift to last through today.
5. Learning To Breathe
As the century turned to 2000, Switchfoot was already massive in faith circles, but landing the original version of “Dare You To Move” and the title tune on the soundtrack of A Walk To Remember helped the band reach a wider audience. It also marked a coming of age collection ripe with contemplation and an abundance of hooks that still don’t sound their age.
6. Fading West
In 2014, the group combined their love for music with a passion for surfing with the Fading West album and documentary of the same name. The instrumentally diverse project simultaneously shone the spotlight on everyone’s humanitarian efforts, specifically the annual Bro-Am benefit concert and surfing competition that raises money for local California communities.
7. Where The Light Shines Through
Never one to rest on its laurels, 2016’s Where The Light Shines Through builds upon Switchfoot’s many artistic angles, while articulately wrestling with life’s grandest questions. “Looking For America” with rapper Lecrae is a key listen that means even more a couple years after the fact thanks to lines like “land of the free, home of the brave/But Lord knows that we need plenty change.”
8. Nothing Is Sound
Given the monumental success of The Beautiful Letdown, Nothing Is Sound continues following in those radio-ready footsteps, though nearly as much attention came from the band posting ways to work around the copy protection installed on the CD by their record label at the time. Nonetheless, the brouhaha couldn’t override the infectiousness and inspiration of “Stars” and “We Are One Tonight.”
9. New Way To Be Human
Dipping back to 1999 finds the fellas dropping their sophomore effort, New Way To Be Human, and really starting to find their collective voices. The title cut, “Company Car” and “Only Hope” (which also found its way to the soundtrack for A Walk To Remember) are amongst the enduring notables.
10. The Legend Of Chin
Even at the grungy beginning of 1997’s independently-minded The Legend Of Chin, it was apparent Switchfoot possessed mounds of promise. Granted, not every track is a total gem, but there are glimpses of the contagiousness and quality to come (“Chem 6A,” “You”), alongside evidence of a sincere yearning to seamlessly intersect faith and art.