Following the success of their ninth studio album Fading West which debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard charts, rock and roll alumni Switchfoot gave fans a taste of their life on tour with their film of the same name. The film highlighted the micro process the five-piece went through to create the distinctive sound of their album, but it also left fans wanting more. Enter the release of the EP The Edge of the Earth: Unreleased Songs from the Film “Fading West.” Featuring seven songs heard in the film yet cut from the initial album; the EP is a mix of the rock tones we love and the musical resonance of a soundtrack. It is certainly different from any of the band’s prior releases; it is less grungy than Hello Hurricane and has a different medium of intensity to the electrifying Vice Verses, but strangely enough it works.
In what would appear to be a pivotal chapter in the band’s story, the notion of ‘fading west’ has followed them over the last year through their album and movie release, as well as their time on tour. Finally on the opening track, we get to hear the song that inspired much of this creativity. “Fading West” is an acoustic, laid back and relaxed song. It is simple- perhaps a little more simple that what we have come to expect from Switchfoot. The driving guitars and catchy rift of the keyboard carry the chorus as Foreman sings, “I’m heading back to the left coast where I belong. California’s calling me back home.” While the lyrics are somewhat cliché, there is honesty in their delivery which makes them resonate. The need to keep things simple, to return to our roots and be centered is communicated plainly, but with feeling, and as they do this you feel the waves of the west coast dipping at your toes.
A cry to rise above the internal conflict we all face, “Against the Voices” is a stereotypical Switchfoot tune that calls us to persevere. Layering their instrumentation with sounds from around the world (any hard core fan will have observed this in the Fading West film); this song is convoluted in nature but still beautiful and artistic. Each piece of the song feels as though it has been delivered purposefully, and the brutal honesty of the lyrics, “The hardest war to fight, is a fight to be yourself, when the voices try to turn you into something else,” will hit home in your soul. “Skin And Bones” mixes things up, the hard rock edge of the band being softened for a broader and more synth based approach. A melancholy tune, the poetry of the lyrics paints a vast, desolate landscape. Choosing to focus on Foreman’s falsetto, the track seems to communicate the deepest and most fearful parts of our being with phrases like “apocalyptic skies.”
The beauty of “What It Costs” comes largely from the fact it sung by guitarist Tim Foreman. His first time on lead vocals, Tim’s voice doesn’t cut through like Jon’s and carries far less grit. Yet there is a sincerity and gravel in it, mixed with a sweetness that is perfect for the song. Penned when his brother was forced to fly home in the middle of their tour due to his daughter being sick, this song dares to uncover elements of love which often go undiscovered in music. A song about brotherly love, friendship, the love of a father and faith in a higher being, this is poignant and beautiful.
“Slow Down My Heartbeat” feels darker and deeper in its delivery than the rest of the EP. The consistent use of cymbals, foreboding keys and synth take you straight to a pivotal and uncertain moment. Creating the sound of a heartbeat, there is an audio distortion to Jon’s voice which is not necessarily needed, but still contributes to the intensity of the song. “Liberty” is my favorite track on this EP. The poetry of the lyrics over the hastening backbeat of the track paints a picture more than any other song. Using the imagery of nautical folklore, phrases like, “I tie myself up to the mast; give up the semblance of control. The sirens sing, but I let them pass, ’Cause only you could free my soul,” places the listener in the center of the story. Empowering and insatiably hopeful, this song carries Switchfoot’s trademark call to live for something more than today.
Finishing up with “The Edge of the Earth,” a banjo is used to communicate the solitude of their travels and the purity found in these moments. This track is tribute to the brevity of moments that occurs when you travel, and it rounds off a season in which the band stretched themselves lyrically and musically. Distinctive from their other releases, the cutting of these songs from the original album says more about style than their quality. Honest, compelling and sincere, Switchfoot’s EP The Edge of the Earth will bring fans closer to the heart of the band than ever before.