Released January 24th 2012
When I was asked if I would be interested in doing a review for a debut album for pop-rock group The Heaven Switch, I’ll be honest, I was a little hesitant. Generally I’m more interested in the candy variety of pop rocks than the musical variety. Throw the word “punk” in there and I’m on board! Then I read about front man Ryan Calhoun’s solo accomplishments: at least five Top 10 songs on iTunes’ singer-songwriter chart (single “Who We Are” went #1), a #3 album with Everything That I’m Not, millions of listens on Myspace, and 30,000 singles sold. Well, I suppose that’s impressive. I’m also not the type of person to throw out a group because of the label someone has put on them, especially before giving their music a listen.
Then there’s the human story. During the past year, it seems Calhoun has endured the dissolve of a long-term relationship. This trial forced him to sell most of his music gear. In his Facebook bio, Calhoun says, “I draw from my experiences in life. My relationships, my fears, my struggles everything that surrounds me. My songs are honest and I think thats why people can relate to them and have a connection.” So many times, the best creativity is sparked from personal struggle. Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued. So I listened to a few seconds of each song and knew I wanted to hear more.
Maybe I listened to this album with a bias, knowing something of the emotional influence behind some of the songs. Still, most of them seem obviously about troubled or broken relationships. Let’s be honest. Who hasn’t had trouble in some form of relationship with another human being?
There seems to be a progression through the album, both through the lyrics and the music. The opening song, “Raise a Flag,” has an upbeat, pop feel. The listener gets the sense that the singer is willing to fight for the relationship. Some of the lines, “knock out Mike Tyson too, right in his dumb tattoo,” are desperate but humorous. He’ll do what he has to in order to prove himself. Then things take a slightly darker turn with the clever metaphor of “Stolen Car.” This song has my favorite lyrics, breaks my heart every time. “Trainwreck” and “Fault Lines” gradually slow things down to the beautiful acoustic ballad, “Someday.” It’s literally the mid-point of the album, as well as an emotional turning point. More hopeful and accepting, it’s about letting go of something that’s just not working. Bass drum beats against piano runs and fast, quiet vocals bring in “Dam This Flood.” This song exemplifies confusion and frustration when the chorus breaks into louder, desperate vocals accompanied by smooth guitar rifts. “Surface” shows The Heaven Switch’s ability to rock with grinding guitars and a driving drum beat. The album resolves emotionally with “You Said,” and “Best of Times,” which gradually build up to an upbeat pop dance feel. They are both repetitive lyrically, lending to the dance feel. Still, I could not help but tap my toes. In spite of the upbeat feel of these songs, neither conveys the message that life is all sunshine and roses. As the album ends, the listener is left with the feeling that this is the reality of life. We must take the situations we are given, make the best of them, and learn what we can. The Heaven Switch takes the listener from the willingness to fight for a relationship, through anger, acceptance, with moments of frustration and confusion, to a realistic resolve to pick up the pieces and “keep moving on.”
This self-titled album for The Heaven Switch shows promise for this new group. It’s real, honest, and contains themes that are easy to connect to. To tell you the truth, the more I listen to it, the more I like it. The diversity on the album could mean a couple of things. Either they are searching for and developing their sound, or displaying their talent and musical ability. Being unfamiliar with Calhoun’s previous work, I can’t say one way or the other. Anyone who appreciates good rock music, and has struggled through life with another person, check out The Heaven Switch’s self-titled album available on iTunes or AmazonMP3. You’ll be glad you did. Writing this review has already created one more fan of Ryan Calhoun and The Heaven Switch!
Recommended tracks: Raise A Flag, Stolen Car, Someday, Dam This Flood, Surface, Best of Times
1. Raise A Flag
2. Stolen Car
4. Fault Lines
6. Dam This Flood
8. You Said
9. Best of Times