Jon Foreman has finally found an outlet for those slow, meaningful songs he always wanted to sing, but hasn’t been able to fit into a Switchfoot album with any effect since The Beautiful Letdown. Winter hits the mark for slow-burning songs, though itâ€™s essentially a strum-by-strum facsimile of the Fall EP. Like its predecessor, the material on Winter has no relation to the season for which it is named. Other than â€œWhite as Snow,â€ it is more a collection of music to be played by the fireside with your love, or under their window on Valentineâ€™s Day, than a thematic rumination on the barren season.
The lineup kicks off with â€œLearning How to Die,â€ a cleverly spliced ensemble of acoustic guitar, warm woodwinds, and light brass, with something sounding suspiciously like maracas (and I mean that as a compliment) accompanying the main backbeat. Foremanâ€™s soft, familiar voice helps us believe the lyrics, and for once it doesnâ€™t sound like he is struggling to sing gently. From the first beat of â€œBehind Your Eyes,â€ you can tell that itâ€™s the fastest moving track in the lineup, and at a sparing 2:38, it feels even shorter.
â€œSomebodyâ€™s Babyâ€ is by far the strongest track, introducing not only strains of sleepy strings, but also the first curse word ever used in a Jon Foreman or Switchfoot song. The vocal range travels emotively into the higher vestiges of Foremanâ€™s voice, and the lyrical imagery, which centers around the suicide of a troubled young woman, is vivid enough to almost bring her to life. Smooth guitar lines remind the listener vaguely of Snow Patrolâ€™s haunting, melancholy â€œChasing Carsâ€ and â€œRun.â€
This lone highlight is the recordâ€™s centerpoint, and the three remaining tracks feel humdrum and well-worn by comparison. â€œWhite as Snowâ€ is a slower song with a transparent Christian worldview (â€œCreate in me a clean heart/Oh God/Restore in me/The joy of your salvationâ€). I Am Still Runningâ€ reprises â€œLearning How To Dieâ€ so closely that the two might have been better condensed into one track. â€œIn Loveâ€ finishes with a tinge of specialty: horns and string-hammers project an Oriental aura thatâ€™s pretty, intriguing, but undeveloped.
Like Fall (yes, this is a pattern), Winter has its good and its not too good, with the lot of it feeling rather soporifically uniform. While their orchestral flirtations take one more step away from Foremanâ€™s bread and butter, these rough, B-side-ish songs are bereft of anything spectacular.
Daniel Sessions is a Patrol contributor.
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