Reviewed by Helen Whitall
This is the third of the four 'Wonderlands' EPs from the Switchfoot frontman and this one is dedicated to the dark hours between 11pm to 4am. Foreman departs from the original 24-song plan to give us seven tracks on this release; why stop at 24 songs for 24 hours when you can have 25? 'Darkness' has a dreamy, intimate and slightly folky vibe overall and a powerful message of hope through life's pain and insecurity. It feels like someone lying awake at night in the dark, wrestling with so many battles of life but pushing through in prayer to live another day. "Come Home" (produced by John Mark Painter), "Beautiful" (produced by Paramore's Jon Howard and Taylor York) and "She Said" are each extremely strong songs in their own right, but the similarity in their themes of encouragement to an unnamed woman struggling with life mean they work really well together. "She Said", produced by Noah Gundersen, is a particularly lovely track; the instruments, including sarangi (a bowed, string instrument from India which is used in Hindustani classical music) played by Suhail Yusuf Khan, just seem to sing and the message that even the darkest night will pass if faced 'one breath at a time' is life-giving. A beautiful duet with Sara Watkins, "June And Johnny", which Foreman himself produced, stands out on this EP for its pure simplicity. Both singers' voices are at their most intimate and breathy here, and the simple guitar and cello accompanying them are just perfect. The lyrics throughout 'Darkness' are superb and will no doubt be a real source of strength and encouragement to many. However I can't help wonder why the aversion to rhythm on some of these tracks: "You Alone" (producer Cubbie Fink of Foster The People) clearly has a fast, danceable, folky rhythm underneath but it's barely there even when it is introduced later in the song; the strong lyrical rhythm of "Larger Than Life" (produced by Jonathan Seale and Dan Knobler of Mason Jar Music) is washed out by a wall of strings that unfortunately leaves me wondering what the song 'really' sounds like underneath; and the heartfelt "Inner Peace" (producer Aaron Roache) has an irregular rhythm, obscured again under a sound wash. This for me slightly diminishes what is otherwise another stunning release.
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