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Switchfoot’s lead singer Jon Foreman’s versatile voice make the new album a hit. (credit: Courtesy of Susan Llyod) Switchfoot’s lead singer Jon Foreman’s versatile voice make the new album a hit. (credit: Courtesy of Susan Llyod)

Among the many new album releases coming out this winter, Switchfoot and Dashboard Confessional are two relatively big names that, though not new to the music scene (Switchfoot’s first CD was released in 1997, Dashboard’s in 2000), are still producing fresh music.

The boys of Switchfoot released their seventh album, Hello Hurricane, this past Tuesday. The San Diego group has been able to mix guitar-driven pop-rock songs and heartfelt ballads on the same CD for the past decade, and Hello Hurricane is no exception. This is the band’s seventh studio album and it comes just under two years after their previous release, Oh! Gravity, which was met with mixed reviews.

If some of the lyrics seem to allude to religion, it’s no accident. Foreman’s a devoted Christian, and he allows his beliefs to influence his music, but not define it. “Calling us ‘Christian rock’ tends to be a box that closes some people out and excludes them. And that’s not what we’re trying to do,” he said in an interview with the Boston Globe, regarding the pigeonholing of a band to a genre.

If you’re looking for a 49-minute undulation of sounds, then Hurricane is definitely for you. Foreman’s rough voice suits the heavier songs (“Mess of Me,” “Bullet Soul”), but turns soft — and still powerful — as he croons about life and love (“Enough to Let Me Know,” “Always”). When Hurricane’s songs lack guitar riffs, they are quickly made up by Foreman’s inspirational, mature, and poetic words.

Sure, the band tried to change their style a bit this time around, but Hurricane is powerful enough to attract new listeners and keep old fans smiling.

Also released this past Tuesday was Dashboard Confessional’s latest project, Alter the Ending. It’s the band’s sixth album, though frontman Chris Carrabba also sang with the band Further Seems Forever, formed before Dashboard’s beginnings. Time has allowed Carrabba to mature not only vocally, but also lyrically. In the band’s early years, they were often labeled as the face of emo music, but with their recent releases, they’ve gained a wider audience. With Alter the Ending, the band keeps some of its signature summery motifs (“We watched the sun burn down into cinders”) while extending into somber metaphors about sticking together (“There’ll be ash and dust to bury us but I will keep you clean”).

There are some “typical” Dashboard songs for the fans — simple arrangements of verses with gradual build-ups to a peppy, catchy chorus where Carrabba tells the world, “Life is always hard for the belle of the boulevard.”

Songs like “Water and Bridges” and “I Know About You” reflect the album’s being more guitar-driven than previous releases (most notably, 2007’s The Shade of Poison Trees, which featured a total, bare-bones, stripped-down, start-to-finish acoustic set list), but the change isn’t overwhelming, as every song dedicates itself to its words and vocals.

After the band takes listeners on 39 minutes of a musical journey, Dashboard sends them off with the pleasant closer, “Hell on the Throat,” which introduces strings into the album’s instrumentation. And so Alter the Ending ends, unless listeners have picked up the deluxe edition, which has a second disc in which the band performs acoustic versions of all 12 songs.

Check out the bands that brought you “Dare You to Move” and “Screaming Infidelities” in their 2009 new releases. Hello Hurricane and Alter the Ending are two thumbs-up albums that are definitely worth a listen.