Analogue Music | Jon Foreman - Departures
Jon Foreman - Departures

Jon Foreman - Departures

Artist: Jon Foreman · Written by Matt Conner

Date Released

12 February, 2021



Jon Foreman's latest album is a difficult invitation to accept—but not in the way you might think.

Over the last year, the Switchfoot front man has been teasing a new solo project in the works, his first new batch of tunes since a 2015 series of Wonderlands EPs. In the last 12 months, he's repackaged several older songs into new EPs centered on major themes (and titles) like Doubt and Love, Fear and Belief, and those are certainly the pillars that dominate his newest LP, Departures.

But what's so striking about this new solo album, beyond some really wonderful musical choices, is the thematic draw behind the work. These songs largely serve as an invitation for listeners to move outward, to move beyond where they (we) are toward something greater. In that way, it's an invitation, yet Foreman doesn't mince words. He's also here to tell/remind us that reaching is difficult and painful, that there's a very real cost to acquire what we truly want. Which is often why we don't reach in the first place.

Departures opens with a slow-building, sea-faring, cinematic swell that would feel right at home on the big screen (to use a pre-pandemic analogy) entitled "The Ocean Beyond The Sea." The semi-shanty is different from anything he's released before, a surprising cut right from the outset. However, it's here that Foreman makes his premise clear. "There's an ocean beyond the sea ... a forest beyond the trees ... a highway beyond the road." Each place holds something of great value, yet it lies further than the places we've previously ventured.

Lead single "Education" comes next, a track that musically feels right at home with where Foreman's been before, and here the songwriter begins to detail the currency at work to arrive at his planned destination.

If you haven't figured out by now
I guess the pain is gonna show you how

As catchy as "Education" is, it cannot completely mask the reality he's unveiling for anyone who listens: that growth, that love, that beauty, that healing, that hope are all things that lie beyond the other side of the pain he's describing.

Anyone who has made such personal journeys in life will know the power of encouragement to accomplish such tasks, and Foreman is here to hold the hand of his listeners with a few impressive guests. Lauren Daigle's incredible vocal work is put to good use on "A Place on Earth", a powerful duet that laments the world they hope to see (one that's only available if we labor toward one).

Oh, how I long for heaven in a place called earth
Where every son and daughter will know their worth
Where all the streets resound with thunderous joy
Oh, how I long for heaven in a place called earth

Madison Cunningham joins Foreman on "Side By Side" to remind us that "how we spend our time is how we spend our lives is who we become." Yet the sentiments here aren't preachy in any way. Instead, the song is deceptively playful. Even beyond that, Foreman himself isn't here to remain detached from the struggles. The album's centerpiece is "Jesus I Have My Doubts," which presents questions to the divine about the exchange at the heart of this album. Foreman sings, "I know you got your reasons but I've got my doubts" and the sincerity is striking here.

Other highlights on Departures capture various angles of this same journey. The defiance shown on "Love is the Rebel Song" is an important clarifier for the songwriter, a signal that he's not content with a life that plays it safe. "Weight of the World" shows a vulnerable side that questions whether or not Foreman can handle what he's been tasked with. "Last Words" is a true achievement to close out the album on which Foreman sings, "I'm breathing in the breath you left behind." It's a testament to the arduous journey, a man's ultimate dependence on something outside of himself to carry him those final steps.

Foreman's familiar themes of doubt and fear, belief and love are all present on Departures, but there are no rose-colored lenses in use here. The world can be better. We can be better. And yet we aren't. Within the tension of those statements are the themes ever-present in Foreman's work, and yet he continues to press in and encourages us all to do the same.

VISIT: Jon Foreman