Fall (EP)

Jon Foreman

lowercase people records, 2007


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Switchfoot vocalist and principal songwriter Jon Foreman spends much of his musical life as part of a band that typically features two or even three electric guitars buzzing away over heavy rhythms. There’s the occasional ballad, but -- for a songwriter who specializes in lyrics designed to make you think -- surprisingly little in the way of overt musical introspection.

This EP, his solo debut and the first of four planned six-song sets on a seasonal theme, gives Foreman his first real chance to turn the volume all the way down and ponder the questions at the core of his art -- what does it mean to be human, and how can we navigate the modern world with heart and soul and integrity intact -- in a quieter, more intimate setting.

The results are six hymns to the pain of existence, each in its own way searching for grace and peace, each sung in the slightly ragged voice of a man struggling through faith and doubt and loneliness and connection. Struggling and, more often than not, prevailing. Fallmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 is difficult and real and somber and still ultimately hopeful… kind of like life.

“The Cure For Pain” is one of the most beautiful compositions of Foreman’s career, a spare, haunting rumination on how hard it can be to simply make it through a life that offers abundant reasons to retreat from it. Gentle trumpet accents add warmth to his strummed melody as a tambourine chimes a thoughtful cadence underneath. The lyric explores the depths of human pain (“I’ve spent ten years trying to sing these doubts away / But the water keeps on fallin’ from my eyes”) before concluding, with no little courage, that “it would be a lie to run away.”

Next up, “Southbound Train” offers a glimpse of the loneliness of life on the road, with cello and Foreman’s delicate picking giving the song a texture that finds the nexus between alt-country and classical. Foreman’s terrific fast-picked melody line anchors the contrarily earthy “Lord Save Me From Myself,” which adds gospel-flavored organ to the mix and punches up the choruses with drums. “Mine eyes have seen the glory / Of this hollow modern shell” he sings in another of his perceptive and potent anti-materialist rants.

An almost island feels creeps into the melody of the acoustic guitar and sax (or is that clarinet?) duet “The Moon Is A Magnet,” about how we’ve turned love into an addiction rather than a joy. After all, in this modern world “What are we if we’re not in love?” Closer “My Love Goes Free” is a gorgeous, deceptively simple piano ballad that again has a rather hymn-like feel, as Foreman hears something in a lover’s voice on the phone that tells him it’s time to let her go, for both of their sakes.

I can’t call this a perfect set. While “Equally Skilled,” derived from a bible verse (Micah 7), has a strong rolling melody, nicely stacked harmonies, and a complex, provocative message, it also feels rather pedantic and overlong, qualities which rarely show up elsewhere in Foreman’s songbook.

But then, Jon Foreman would likely be the first to point out that perfection is unattainable and all we can do is the best we’re able to with the gifts we’re given. He does wonderfully with his gifts here, and leaves fans in eager anticipation of the trio of EPs set to follow this rich, moving solo debut.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of lowercase people records, and is used for informational purposes only.