Switchfoot’s ninth album ‘Fading West’ is a slight change of direction for the band, as it is one of the happiest sounding records the Californian alternative rock five-piece have produced in years. The album is used as a soundtrack to the band’s documentary about their tour and surfing, so the songs are all quite summery, radio-friendly and upbeat. This can be seen on Saltwater Heart, with the chorus of “whoa-oh”’s repeated over and over. Rather than being mainly driven by guitars, there is heavy importance put on the synths throughout the album.
The album is basically a pop/electro-pop album, There is very little to suggest ‘rock’ or ‘alternative’ throughout – not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a noticeable fact. Songs like Who We Are have almost no resemblance of the rock side of the band. Throughout ‘Fading West’ there are moment where the sound echoes a number of other bands, such as Fun, MGMT, and perhaps most noticeably, Coldplay. When We Come Alive could be sold quite convincingly as a Coldplay song, and for at least the first 30 seconds most people would probably not notice the difference.
There are still some traces of the band’s earlier work and their quirkier side. Songs like The Original and The World We Used To Know are the slightly more rock-leaning tracks on the album. They are more guitar driven that others. However, the latter is also accompanied by slightly cheesy lyrics such as “You change the world everyday you’re alive” which let it down a bit.
Part of the problem with ‘Fading West’ is that it relies on a documentary about touring and surfing, which explains the vibe of the album. The ever present summer-y sound no doubt makes sense in the context of the documentary. However the question as to whether or not the album can stand alone is a hard one. At times, it seems that it cannot – because the documentary is being used here to explain the catchiness, the poppy sound, which could be seen as a let down for some fans, so if the documentary is being used as a crutch, as a defence, that’s not a good sign for the album.
All in all, ‘Fading West’ is a relatively unremarkable, unoriginal album. That being said it’s unoffensive and is an easy and enjoyable listen. There is nothing groundbreaking to it but there are definitely some insanely catchy and happy songs present as well as some songs that have anthem-like potential.