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 it’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 “White as Snow,” it is more a collection of music to be played by the fireside with your love, or under their window on Valentine’s Day, than a thematic rumination on the barren season.

The lineup kicks off with “Learning How to Die,” 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. Foreman’s soft, familiar voice helps us believe the lyrics, and for once it doesn’t sound like he is struggling to sing gently. From the first beat of “Behind Your Eyes,” you can tell that it’s the fastest moving track in the lineup, and at a sparing 2:38, it feels even shorter.

“Somebody’s Baby” 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 Foreman’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 Patrol’s haunting, melancholy “Chasing Cars” and “Run.”

This lone highlight is the record’s centerpoint, and the three remaining tracks feel humdrum and well-worn by comparison. “White as Snow” is a slower song with a transparent Christian worldview (“Create in me a clean heart/Oh God/Restore in me/The joy of your salvation”). I Am Still Running” reprises “Learning How To Die” so closely that the two might have been better condensed into one track. “In Love” finishes with a tinge of specialty: horns and string-hammers project an Oriental aura that’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 Foreman’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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