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Hello Hurricane - Switchfoot (2009)

Their first album in nearly three years, Switchfoot have said Hello Hurricane has been the hardest record they have ever made. The band tracked over 80 songs out of 150 written, the end result being 12 remarkably cohesive tracks. Between the aggressive rock numbers and powerful ballads, Hello Hurricane is a solid release embodying tales of struggle and loss intertwined with the overlying theme of hope and love. Their seventh studio release, Switchfoot prove their music is as important now than ever.

A press release explains it best: "Where the multiple-Platinum selling The Beautiful Letdown became an anthem for a generation of fans to leave a life of complacency with songs like "Dare You To Move," "Meant to Live" and "This Is Your Life," Hello Hurricane takes the message a step further, encouraging fans to live for something beyond themselves."

Energetic tracks like current single, "Mess of Me" and opening song, "Needle and Haystack Life" reassess this message. "Don't let go/Don't give up hope/All is forgiven/You breathe it in/The highs and lows/We call it living/All is not lost/Become who you are/It happens once in a lifetime."

Frontman Jon Foreman further explains the record's concept. "Hello Hurricane acknowledges the storms that tear through our lives. This album is an attempt to respond to those storms with an element of hope, trying to understand what it means to be hopeful in a world that keeps on spinning."

Known for their introspective lyrics and heartfelt ballads, the heavy rock entrance on the record may surprise longtime fans at first. High-energy, arena-friendly tracks can be heard early on Hello Hurricane, something the Switchfoot concert buff will enjoy but the average music fan may take a few spins to appreciate. In a four-minute album trailer Foreman provides clarification while talking of the difficulty in tracking the album. "They didn't feel like the type of songs you wanted to die singing. For Hello Hurricane, that became the prerequisite for the song. If you're not crying, why are you singing it? If you don't believe it with every ounce of you, then there's no point in singing it." It is this quote that best describes the album.

Hello Hurricane takes the listener on a journey. The upbeat start of the record eventually takes a turn midway through, ending with three fitting ballads.  Let me be clear, this is not an album of singles; it is an album that rewards those who listen to it in its entirety.

Slower track, "Your Love Is a Song" recalls earlier Switchfoot track, "Let Your Love Be Strong" and "Your Love Is Strong" off Foreman's solo EP while "Bullet Soul" is a welcomed rebirth. Opening with excessive guitar fuzz in the speakers, it's as rock as you can get. Listeners can easily picture Foreman jumping off the drum kit while screaming the lyrics at a live show.

Switchfoot thrive on their ballads and the emotional "Enough" is just one example. With soft guitar accompaniment and percussion, Foreman's voice blends well as he sings, "Do you love me enough to let me go?/To let me follow through/Let me fall for you my love/Do you love me enough to let me go?" Possibly the simplest track on Hello Hurricane, the depth behind "Enough" is immeasurable.

"Free" follows "Enough" and is a song many can relate to. In a tale of the struggle breaking free of our own vices be it debt, greed, or our past, Foreman sings, "I've got my back against the wall/But I still hear the blue sky call/The chains that hold me back inside/Are the prisons of my mind . . . I try to live the light of day/Why would I do what I hate." With dark guitar tones and percussion the song leaves an impact on the listener.

Produced by Mike Elizondo, (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor) Hello Hurricane is a new beginning for the band. While certain tracks rock harder than others, it is the stories within the songs that leave the greatest impression.

The title track is said to have been inspired by a woman who lost all she knew in Hurricane Katrina. Last year, with Habitat for Humanity, the band helped rebuild a woman's home who relocated to Baton Rouge. As she learned to walk as an amputee, Foreman explained her mantra: "I walked out of my house and my life in New Orleans on my own legs; I'm going to walk into this one the same way." Of "Hello Hurricane," he explained, "This is the spirit that I wanted to capture with this song, and moreover with this record. The storms of life might take my house, my loved ones, or even my life - but they cannot silence my love."

After learning the story behind the song, the track hits home. "Everything I have I count as loss/Everything I have is stripped away/Before I started building/I counted up these costs/There's nothing left for you to take away/Hello hurricane/You can't silence my love."

The beautifully emotional ballads, "Always," "Yet," "Sing It Out" and "Red Eyes" close the album on a high note. Last track, "Red Eyes" brings the album full circle with Foreman singing the chorus from "Needle and Haystack Life" to the fadeout of the song: "We are once in a lifetime..." It is within these songs that Switchfoot truly shine. While the faster paced rock anthems introduce Hello Hurricane, it is the ballads of hope, love and yearning that end the album, leaving the listener with newborn faith, freedom and strength. Foreman explains it best:

"Hello Hurricane is an attempt to sing into the storm. Hello Hurricane is a declaration: you can't silence my love. My plans will fail, the storms of this life will come, and chaos will disrupt even my best intentions, but my love will not be destroyed. Beneath the sound and the fury there is a deeper order still - deeper than life itself. An order that cannot be shaken by the storms of this life. There is a love stronger than the chaos, running underneath us- beckoning us to go below the skin-deep externals, beyond the wind, even into the eye of the storm. Hello Hurricane, you're not enough - you can't silence my love."