There are very few things you can count on in this life, but the changing of seasons is one of them. You can also safely bet that Jon Foreman is somewhere with an acoustic guitar in hand, writing another set of stellar songs. Whether it be his main gig Switchfoot, a side project like Fiction Family, or solo projects, the man seems to have no shortage of inspiration for innumerable tunes. Here on his newest solo offering, titled Departures, Foreman delivers twelve of his most explicitly Christ-centered songs of recent memory. While he's nearly always offered hope in the face of pain and called for love in a more implicit approach, Departures finds him name-checking Jesus directly. He sounds worn but not devoid of faith--no, not by a long shot.
Highlights aren't hard to find beginning with the hauntingly-epic "The Ocean Beyond The Sea." It has a hymn-like quality to it as it builds and builds to an explosive conclusion with an intense string section and drums leading the way. Due to its water-based subject matter and tone, I could hear indie nautical-rock band Rusty Shipp doing a killer cover justice. Switching gears from there, "Education" swings toward the playful and upbeat. On the next two songs, female artists Madison Cunningham and Lauren Daigle join the fray on "Side By Side" and "A Place Called Earth," respectively. While the former slows things down and has Cunningham backing him with gentle nuance, Daigle takes verse two of the latter, lending her powerhouse vocals in a more prominent way the slow-burn song demands. All in all, it's a fantastic one-two punch that lands just right.
"Jesus I Have My Doubts" is honest and heartfelt while being respectfully bewildered about the state of the world. The entire song contains Jon's career strength of communicating a weary hope in the face of hopelessness. The bridge is emotionally charged, with the lyrics, "Are you there?/Can you hear me?/Do you care? Are you near me?/Cause I’m scared and I’m weary/Are you there?/Can you hear me?/Are you there?" The song fades out open-ended, with Jon voicing his doubts, yet laudably clinging to the mast of the Maker. Songs "Thanks Be To God" and "The Gift" find Jon following his doubts up with gratefulness, thanking God for delivering him from his internal war and calling us to remember the gifts of faith, hope, and love.
"The Valley of Planned Obsolescence" returns to the playful tone with a cello featuring high in the mix, steady march-like drumbeat, bouncy melody, and whistle solo collaborating to make a jaunty smile-inducing tune. Referencing now obsolete things like yesterday's supermodel, MySpace, CDs, and social media, Jon bemoans getting old with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Then in a sweet twist, he lovingly croons to his wife, "and how will we know when the final chorus dies?/On the day my spirit flies/I want to be with you/Just holding hands." Indeed, it's a call to treasure the lasting things, namely relationships, while letting the temporal fade to the next fad of the moment.
Overall, Departures is another album in a long line of fine releases bearing the mark of Jon Foreman. Laudably, he puts his storied career to use in reminding us all that every departure ends with a new beginning, just like the mercies that come with each new day. This reviewer has been impacted deeply by his creative output, benefiting from his honest questions, doubts, and stubborn grip on belief despite it all. Jon balances well the fine line of pointing out the problems of this world and admitting his culpability while also turning his gaze (and in so doing ours as listeners) toward the Savior who remains faithfully the same. While it would be easy to take his work for granted with his prolific output certainly spoiling listeners (there is a likely Switchfoot album releasing in 2021 as well), it would be a mistake to slough this one off as "just another record." In fact, what we have here is an album of the year contender, sure to make many a year-end top-ten list in 2021.- Review date: 2/10/21, written by Josh Balogh of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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