With each album, some bands keep producing greater and greater music. Some don't progress much, some don't at all. With Switchfoot's new album, Learning to Breathe, their third recording effort, they've proven they can grow and mature with each project.
Last year's New Way to Be Human was a step up in musical maturity for the band from their wonderful debut, The Legend of Chin in 1997. So where is Learning to Breathe's musical growth at? The band has stretched their melodic rock to be more powerful, emotional, and more melodic. Jonathan Foreman's lead vocals aren't displayed much differently, but the different musical background makes up for what may have been gained from more experimented vocals. However, for me personally, I have no complaint with Jon's vocals. They're unique and original, laid back, emotional, yet calm and collected.
They throw a musical curve ball with the start of the album being a rock ballad (as opposed to the previous albums which featured pop/rock openers). "I Dare You to Move" presents the challenge to live life fully like "today never happened before" in a quiet melody which builds up momentum as the song progresses into a mild rock tune. The title track follows, serving as a kind of 'declaration of intent': "This is the way that I'm learning to breathe/ living again awake and alive/ I'm dying to breathe in these abundant skies." Lyrically, Jon Foreman formulates poetic thoughts of hope that are personal yet suprisingly universal.
"You Already Take Me There" cranks up the guitar amps yet mixes melody with rock much like their previous songs "Underwater" and "Sooner or Later." Their sound can best be compared, at times, with old Seven Day Jesus (The Hunger album), and more recent Bleach material. "Poparazzi" is a tune in the same fun-pop style as "Company Car" and "Chem6A" which sarcastically complains about annoying infectious pop music getting stuck in your head. As the band puts it, "Poparazzi" describes a force that is eager to hijack our equilibriums at every given moment: "You can close your ears and your eyes but pop will never leave you alone."
Learning to Breathe, like the band's two previous efforts, took several listens to grow on me, but I can still say after each album, that I still enjoy the directions this three-piece act is going and am looking forward to following them throughout their fabulous career. Learning to Breathe is a great 3rd project and a worthy follow-up to last year's excellent, New Way to Be Human.- Review date: 8/15/00, written by John DiBiase
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