First Guess

Brutally honest reviews and commentary on the latest music

‘Sonic Highways’ Is Impressive, But Where’s The Love Letter?


Album: Sonic Highways
Artist: Foo Fighters
Genre: Alternative Rock
Release Date: 10 November 2014
Official Website:

Diagnosis: Sonic Highways has become a big deal in the media, with its ambitious idea and HBO series to go along with it, easily making it the most anticipated album of the year. Each of the songs were recorded in and inspired by a major city in the history of rock in America, also featuring a prominent musician from the corresponding city on each song. All this sounds really cool on paper, but if I was never told that they were going for this before listening, I wouldn’t have noticed. There’s certainly a subtle difference in the sound compared to their older material, but at the end of the day it’s relatively the same music we’ve been getting since their inception. I still have to look up which songs were written in which cities, because they don’t speak for themselves, which is unfortunate for an album that was trying to be a “love letter to American music.” And all the talented contributors are barely noticeable. The intentions of the album aside, Sonic Highways is still a solid Foo Fighters record. The first half in particular is full of energy, but the last two songs “Subterranean” and “I Am A River” noticeably lose steam. “Subterranean” goes for a moodier approach and fails to provide something to latch onto. “I Am A River” is a long ballad that is meant to bring the album to an emotional close, and succeeds to a certain degree, but it gets heavily repetitive, which could have easily done without. The strings at the very end loses much of its power as a result. At best the song is a hit or miss.

The Highlights: The album opens with “Something From Nothing,” recorded in Chicago, with a steady build up to a heavy second half and is one of the few songs where the influences of the city it was recorded in are noticeable, with its funky sound coming in about a minute and a half in. “The Feast and The Famine” is clearly where the band was at their most comfortable, with its anthemic chorus and energetic riffs. You couldn’t tell that it was recorded in and influence by D.C. In fact, you could probably throw this song into one of their older albums and it would fit right in, but that doesn’t stop it from being a good song. “Congregation” is another good example of this, which only takes away from the album in that the album set itself up for something entirely different. “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness” stands out effectively with its change of pace midway through and a very satisfying ending. The accompanying piano is a noticeably nice touch and the build up to the guitar solo is more than worth it. If there’s only one song you listen to on the album, it has to be this one. One of the best songs they’ve ever written.

Final Thoughts: Although Sonic Highways doesn’t live up to it’s promise of being the stylistically diverse album it set itself up to be, it’s still one of the band’s better albums and more than worth checking out. Again, it gets messy toward the end, but the rest of the album demonstrates why the band has been talked about nonstop for the past month or two. They have the talent and the guts to at least try something as ambitious as writing an album inspired by the history of American rock.

Score: 8 out of 10


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