One is the loneliest number. Two is better than one but still kinda weak. And everyone knows that bad things come in threes. But fours? That, my friend, is where it's at.
Nobody knows this better than San Diego's own Jon Foreman. I mean, it's in his name for chrissakes. But the Switchfoot lead vocalist/guitarist has channeled his inner Vivaldi to take the power of four to a new level by recording a quartet of six-song EPs—Fall, Winter, Spring and Chinese New Year (just kidding, the last one's Summer)—inspired by the seasons.
Foreman released Fall and Winter as a two-disc set on Jan. 15, with Spring and Summer coming, predictably, later this year. The songs on Fall (such as “The Cure for Pain”) and Winter (“Learning How to Die”) are appropriately somber, intimate and introspective while the next two EPs will presumably be a tad, well, sunnier.
It's a bold enterprise. But why stop there? Clearly, songwriting prolificacy isn't an issue. As such, I've peered into my crystal ball to see what the future might hold for Foreman and his fearsome musical foursomes.
Four Natural Elements
Inspired by the 2010 movie An Inconvenient Truth 2: Seriously, We're All Gonna Die, Foreman collaborates with Heart (under the name “Captain Planet”) on a series of EPs about the environment.
Earth: The initial promise of this album is undercut when Foreman takes the subject a little too literally on tracks like “Mud,” “Soil” and “Permafrost.” Sample lyric (from “Mud”): “You feel like wet dirt or maybe a slimy wedding cake/I roll in you, play with you: It's a grimy marriage that you and my hands make.”
Wind: A breezy pop album—featuring surprise cameos from Bette Midler and Twista on “Wind Beneath My Wings”—that's panned by critics with the same two-word album review: “This blows.”
Fire: Foreman originally planned a “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” death-metal series—War and Plague were near completion, but the project was scrapped when Foreman lost his voice recording Famine and Death—but instead saved material like “It Burns!” and “Skin Graft” from the “Bubonic Sessions” for this record.
Water: Written in one delirious night around a Pacific Beach campfire, the album includes acoustic ballads like “Water is Wet” (featuring Jack Johnson), “That Drowned Rat Looks Like You” and “Drink It, Baby, Drink It.”
Foreman finds his muse in Woody Guthrie's “This Land is Your Land” and sets out on a soul-searching musical expedition across the United States.
North: Scathing punk rock is featured on “It's Friggin' Cold Here” (recorded with Hüsker Dü in Minneapolis), “There's No Place Like Nome” (backup vocals provided by Inuit fishermen) and “I Can't Feel My Toes,” which includes lyrics cribbed from Fargo.
South: Recorded in Biloxi inside an old bait shack, Foreman taps into jazz on the instrumental “Red Beans and Rice” and the Delta Blues with “Stuck Inside a Memphis Waffle House with Cold Grits Again” before finishing with the mournful lament “The Big Easy,” which includes lyrics like “The levees broke our heart and our resolve to go on with the beat/But soon enough, the smell of stale beer, urine and innocence lost will be back on Bourbon Street.” There's also a Daft Punk remix of “Dueling Banjos.”
East: An eclectic mix that includes a 37-minute psychedelic jam (“Mushrooms & Maple Syrup”) recorded in Vermont, a bouncy hip-pop track (“Boxer Briefs”) with Baltimore's Sisqo and Latin pop (“Hace Calor” and “Dónde Está el Baño?”) recorded in Miami.
West: Foreman uses a few discarded tracks from an upcoming Switchfoot album and calls it a day.
Four Baldwin Brothers
Finally Foreman has a platform to devote to everyone's favorite acting fraternity.
Alec: A mix of Dean Martin lounge songs and Yoko Ono rants about Alec's least favorite people on “This Little Piggy” (his daughter), “Run and Hyde” (former congressman Henry Hyde) and “That Dirty, Money-Grubbing Whore” (ex-wife Kim Basinger).
Daniel: Hard rock interspersed with the sound of police sirens, gunshots and car crashes on songs dedicated to Daniel's scofflaw ways (“Failure to Appear,” “Rolled-up Dollar Bill”) and obscure movie roles (“Vet #1,” “Dealer #1” and “Fireman Denton”).
Billy: Unsettling agit-pop on songs like “You Go, We Go” (a nod to Billy's role in Backdraft) and “Giddy Up” (about Billy riding Sharon Stone like Secretariat in Sliver) along with a torch ballad (“Billy Darling”) named for his character on Dirty Sexy Money and featuring guest vocals from Billy's wife Chynna Phillips.
Stephen: Foreman plunges into new territory by recording this EP on the reality series Jon & Steve. The result is straightforward pop songs about Stephen's extensive reality-TV résumé (including “My Ribs Hurt” about Ty Murray's Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge) and a psychedelic Christian opus called “The Triumvirate Suite” inspired both by Stephen's faith and his roles in Bio-Dome, Half Baked and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.
Four Basic Food Groups
Foreman will have none of this new-fangled food pyramid, opting instead to kick it old-school with the original dietary staples.
Meat: The darkest—and, frankly, most disgusting—album Foreman has ever recorded thanks, in part, to the graphic “Slaughterhouse Gutter” and a disturbing children's song “Thermie the Thermometer” (featuring Cattle Decapitation) about an FDA food-preparation awareness campaign.
Dairy: Jam-band aficionados celebrate this collaboration with The String Cheese Incident before accusing Foreman of selling out when the lead single (“Happy Cows”) is featured in a California Milk Advisory Board commercial.
Grain: Foreman sets up shop in Nebraska to record an alt-country record with Bright Eyes that includes achingly emotional songs like “Tell Me Rye” (featuring Norah Jones), “Silos Make Me Itchy” and “Yeast Inflection.”
Fruits & Vegetables: Foreman scores a new-wave smash with “Bela Karolyi and Beta Carotene,” but reaction is mixed about the creepy synth-rock on “Stalk of Celery,” about a stranger preying on unsuspecting vegetables in the produce aisle.