Foreman has released numerous solo EPs, and the more comprehensive solo album Limbs and Branches comprising songs from past EP releases, but Departures reflects a departure of sorts from that pattern as it consists of entirely new music and a complete and total departure from Switchfoot.
Foreman would not be the first lead singer of an established band to have a side project. But, fans should not see this as Foreman stepping away from Switchfoot either. Solo albums indeed give individual band members a different platform of expression or to try new styles of music outside of their day job. You get both on this album as Foreman describes Departures “…like a late-night conversation with a friend, rather than shouting at somebody on Twitter. I think this entire record is a bit more confessional for me than it was with Switchfoot. It’s hard to do confessional when you’re playing a loud electric guitar.”
Jon Foreman Departures Album Review
Departures sometimes feels aimless like Foreman figuring out what works in a practice session or him alone in the studio coming up with new ideas for songs. Other times, a definitive purpose exists even if the melody lacks. Foreman incorporates horn and string sections on a number of tracks, lots of acoustic guitar, sometimes pedestrian drumming but mostly relies on his vocals to get the music across.
Departures opens with an initial head-scratcher but upon further spins “The Ocean Beyond the Sea” rises to the best track on the album. Sounding more like haunting background music to accompany the end of a very sad movie, it crescendos into a Game of Thrones anthem reflecting more of a soundtrack score than a song you’d bust out in the car. Definitely interesting.
“Education” sounds like old Switchfoot. Meaning the stuff they don’t play anymore and for good reason.
“Side By Side” with singer Madison Cunningham would relax around the campfire. Years ago, when Switchfoot opened for Blue October, word spread that Foreman was planning a solo acoustic performance after their set. A small group followed him to a nearby building where Foreman, carrying an acoustic guitar, set up camp underneath an overhang and begin playing songs just like this. An awesome in-person experience that doesn’t offer the same result at-home alone.
The repetitious “A Place Called Earth” has moments especially when the classy Lauren Daigle contributes on vocals but overall fails to find its place. If “Education” reflects a song off Switchfoot’s debut album, “Red and Gold” would come off their sophomore effort – meaning older Switchfoot but a little better and maybe get played upon fan request.
Though Switchfoot – the band – does not consider themselves a “Christian” band, clearly some connection exists. (A one-time relationship between Christianity and U2 also existed.) Jon and brother (and Switchfoot bass guitarist) Tim Foreman’s father is a pastor, you can extrapolate Christian themes in some of their lyrics and arguably they have a strong Christian fan base, among other clues.
As such, Jon Foreman would not be the first “Christian” artist to proudly announce he no longer believes in God. Not that this is the case in “Jesus, I Have My Doubts,” which closes the first-half of the album, a very contemplative song featuring a sweet melody and Foreman sounding slurry drunk at times during the chorus. Lyrically he’s not saying anything any person of faith has not struggled with but while he publicly opens that door he seems to counter-punch his own questioning on “Thanks Be To God” a moving Celtic-like track to open the second half of the album in an acknowledge of Him who delivers.
“The Gift” dithers along without much inspiration but capable hands come down and turn things around on “Weight of the World” continuing the considerable lamenting feel that encompasses much of the record as Foreman earnestly cries out for divine help to the backdrop of a harmonious string arrangement.
Foreman sings into the tin can effect to open “Love Is the Rebel Song” which thankfully gives way to a contemporary folk sound producing a more uppity pace absent from much of the album. Literally the same beat propels “The Valley of the Shadow of Planned Obsolescence” from start to finish in this song that sounds really familiar and could be a fresh take on music from the 60s. The last song in “Last Words” starts off so well but dives into a sluggish abyss.
Foreman gets pretty folky on Departures with easy rhythms and rhymes but little to no rock. Sometimes religious and other times contemplating, if you prefer Switchfoot’s lyrics more than their music as a whole, then you just might get a charge out of Departures but if you prefer energy and the pulse that comes with rock music and simply enjoy how the lyrics flow along with the melody and beats, then you probably won’t find much use for the Jon Foreman Solo Show.
Jon Foreman Departures Track Listing:
1. The Ocean Beyond The Sea
3. Side By Side
4. A Place Called Earth
5. Red And Gold
6. Jesus, I Have My Doubts
7. Thanks Be To God
8. The Gift Not Available
9. Weight Of The World
10. Love Is The Rebel Song
11. The Valley Of The Shadow Of Planned Obsolescence
12. Last Words