Fading West/Atlantic Records
Switchfoot has long been known as a maverick of modern Christian rock because of its thoughtful writing as well as its faith-inspired content. After the gritty, soul-searching 2011 album Vice Verses, Fading West feels like a deep exhale. The latest release is a slight, though pleasant, curveball, both sonically and lyrically. The echoing pop rock of “Love Alone Is Worth the Fight” is uplifting and energetic, and “Who We Are” is a joyous proclamation about embracing your inner self. “Let It Out” is a lively number that practically begs you to scream along, and “When We Come Alive” is an engaging rocker about living life to the fullest. Inspired by the band’s 2012 world tour, the album holds some nice surprises like “BA55”’s ambient, fuzzy departure, and Jon Foreman appears emphatic on “The World You Want” when he sings “Is this the world you want?/Every day you’re making it.”
On his debut album, A-Sides, singer-songwriter Josh Matthews reveals the precocious heart of a street poet. Whether delivering spoken word treatises in poetry slam style about owning the day (“Lockdown”), busting out with hip-hop infused lyrical delivery (“Two Ton Feet”), or even singing in traditional cadence, Matthews demands your attention. His deep, gravelly voice, give the sinister Americana track “Battle Inside Me” added rawness and power, and the pointed questions in “The Game” become more meaningful as a result. A-Sides is loaded with musical variety— songs are augmented by organic percussion, whistling, spoons and the accordion. On one track, a fan leaves Matthews a crazed voice mail, while “Lockdown” has an odd Vincent Price-like laughter in the background, giving the record a slightly unhinged feeling at times.
Billie Joe + Norah
At first glance, this seems like an odd pairing, but a good listen proves that Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Norah Jones are a match made in heaven. Foreverly is a series of covers of classic songs by The Everly Brothers, and is especially poignant in light of the recent passing of Phil Everly. The album has a largely folk bent to it, with everything from easygoing, ambling tunes like “Long Time Gone” and Americana tracks like “Kentucky.” Jones goes solo on “I’m Here to Get My Baby out of Jail,” and Armstrong starts off the beginning of “Barbara Allen,” but it’s when they harmonize—as on “Long Time Gone”—that the duo shines. It’s daunting to cover the Everly Brothers, but Armstrong and Jones do a fine job.