Switchfoot: The Best Yet

Solid best-of package from the Christian crossover outfit frames the band’s past 11 years nicely, if not perfectly.


The Best Yet

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2008-11-04
UK Release Date: Available as import

A "greatest hits" compilation and a "best of" compilation are not the same thing. A "greatest hits" album is, by definition, a collection of an artist’s greatest hits -- the most popular songs the artist has recorded, regardless of critical reception, artistic worth, or the artist’s own opinions. A "best of" compilation, by comparison, culls together only the artist’s highest achievements, without consideration of their individual popularity or commercial success. Most compilations released under either rubric hew towards the greatest hits end of things by necessity; the purpose of the comp is to sell records, not define great art. However, the most recent release from Switchfoot, The Best Yet, tries to take a middle road between the two, jettisoning a few of the band’s better-known hits for album tracks and ballads that would otherwise have been neglected with the passage of time.

The Best Yet boasts tracks from all six of the band’s full-lengths, and fully one-third of the 18-track collection is taken from their breakout 2003 success, The Beautiful Letdown, the album that catapulted them from the Christian radio market into the mainstream. This is no surprise, of course, and nor is the fact that the group’s three albums prior to The Beautiful Letdown receive scant representation. The disc includes only one track from the group’s substandard debut, 1997’s Legend of Chin, two tracks from the awkward but worthwhile 1999 LP New Way to Be Human, and two from their quite successful 2000 release Learning to Breathe.

The fact that The Legend of Chin is represented by “Concrete Girl” rather than the better-known “Chem 6A” (which received some rock radio airplay years before their monster hits “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move”) is easily understandable. Like much of Relient K’s early work, the track sounds a little sophomoric and would be out of step with the tenor of most of the other songs on the collection. For New Way to Be Human, both of the album’s Christian radio hits -- the title track and “I Turn Everything Over” -- are discarded in favor of the quiet “Only Hope” and brash fan favorite “Company Car”. Christian radio smash “Gone”, from The Beautiful Letdown, was undoubtedly left off for being a little too evangelical, and in its stead, the absolute best of the album’s slow burners are included: the winsome final lament “Twenty-Four” and the title track, a smart, poignant ode to failure and redemption.

It is perhaps a disappointment that the Top 40 hit “We Are One Tonight”, from Nothing Is Sound, was left off. Given the album’s success, it would have made sense to include more than three tracks, but an even better tune, the glittering ballad “Shadow Proves the Sunshine”, took its place on The Best Yet. The biggest misstep was eschewing the Oh! Gravity. hit “Head Over Heels (In This Life)”, one of the group’s best songs, and replacing it with the oddball title track and the shelved single “Dirty Second Hands”. This is all the more surprising given that Oh! Gravity. was their weakest album since jumping from parochial Christian label Sparrow to major powerhouse Columbia. If the collection was meant to inspire interest in their previous full-lengths, they’re shooting themselves in the foot by leaving “Head Over Heels” off.

It’s probably wishful thinking to presume that anyone picking up a greatest hits package is looking to expand past it; why bother, when one can just download the few missing gems? Such an attitude, while prevalent, is unfortunate, because Switchfoot’s career path is hard to understand simply by listening to this collection, which is not in chronological order. They started out as a scrappy, grunge-inflected outfit seeking membership in the Christian alternative nation, following in the footsteps of Third Day, Jars of Clay, and Jesus Freak-era DC Talk. A combination of punk-pop sensibility and sweet melodies carried them for three full-lengths before somebody high up in Sony BMG’s ranks figured they could sell the band worldwide outside of the Christian market. The group smoothed out some of the kinks in their sound, deftly veiled the message ever so slightly (enough to sneak onto rock radio, but not enough to sound like they were reneging on commitments to their faithful fans), and struck gold with the next two albums. The band’s most recent release went back to being a little more boisterous and unpredictable, but it failed to connect on a gut level the way their previous efforts had.

This is a story that can’t be told in 18 tracks, but, even with a few unfortunate omissions, The Best Yet is a solid collection of Switchfoot’s best work. For longtime fans, the collection holds little to recommend it, as there is only one new track, “This Is Home” (which is also available on the Prince Caspian soundtrack and on the WOW Hits 2009 comp; the majority of the band’s diehards will probably already own one or both of these). But given that they are self-releasing their upcoming album, it’s likely that this will be the definitive career retrospective for non-obsessives. For anyone who’s been waiting for a Switchfoot greatest hits, this isn’t it; but for anyone who’s been waiting for a Switchfoot best of, this is close.






Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.


IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.


Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.


NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.


The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.


PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.


David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.