Reviewed by Helen Whitall
'Sunlight' is the first of four new EPs that together make up the second solo concept project ('The Wonderlands') of Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman. Following on from his first, loosely based around the cycle of the seasons, this most thought-provoking of songsmiths now explores the changing moods of the hours of a day and the contrasts between darkness and light. Extraordinarily, each of the tracks here utilises different producers (and indeed the other EPs will incorporate the same strategy) meaning that 'Sunlight' offers a wide range of sounds and stylistic approaches. Each of these songs is beautiful, creative and lyrically stunning. "You Don't Know How Beautiful You Are" was produced by Neal Avron, who has worked with Fall Out Boy, Sara Bareilles. With its layers of guitars the song could almost be a Switchfoot track in places. The song is an encouragement to anyone struggling with life and its marching beat speaks of determination to keep going through pain. The Keith Tutt-produced "Caroline" is closer in sound to Foreman's previous solo work; he wonders where an old friend is now before he expresses his gentle disapproval of the path she's chosen, but then even more gently conveys pastoral concern. Acoustic guitar, harmonica and vocals stand out over a beautiful sound picture of building brokenness, like the wind carrying the girl away. Different again, "Patron Saint Of Rock And Roll" (produced by Aaron Roche) sets up powerful contrasts between wealth and poverty, Christ and the hypocritical church whilst brass band parade music emphasises the ridiculousness of empty religion. Foreman's vocals throughout 'Sunlight' are as perfectly imperfect as ever, in places intimate, in others gravelly, but the EP doesn't give us his usual range of vocal dynamics. Though musically diverse, there is a sense of kitsch nostalgia coming through in all the instrumentation; however I did find the rhythm of some of the tracks gets a little lost under all the layers of strings, particularly on the otherwise lovely "All Of God's Children". But having said that, there are some excellent songs here and lyrically Foreman is going from strength to strength.
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