Foster the People blasted into unexpected fame back in 2011 with their hit single “Pumped Up Kicks.” This song was only one track off an album full of indie-pop gloriousness, chock-full of songs with beats and melodies that wouldn’t leave your head for days.
With this past album, Torches, the band seemed to have a great style set in place. For this reason, when front man Mark Foster announced to Rolling Stone back in November of last year that their next record would “not be the record people expect,” I brushed it off.
I have heard bands like Coldplay play around with different styles and still retain their signature sound. It’s a very beneficial and natural thing for bands to experiment, but I expected a fresh band like Foster the People to stick to what got them into the minds and iTunes libraries of millions. However, when it comes to their new album, Supermodel, Mark Foster’s warning holds true.
Supermodel is a concept album, telling the story of the band’s reaction to the effects of fame and the continuing struggles they (and the rest of the world) face in a land of what Foster calls “the ugly side of capitalism.” Perhaps some people will like that straightforward approach, but I think it takes away from the band’s mystique. Even the first single released, “Coming of Age,” feels lacking.
The hidden edginess is gone, and replaced with what? I am not so sure.
Supermodel has a very unexpected sound, and just one listen makes it obvious that the band is in a transition period. Gone are a lot all of the heavy beat-filled songs such as “Helena Beat,” “Call it What You Want,” or the iconic “Pumped Up Kicks.”
This may be disappointing for some fans, but it is clearly the step in a new direction Foster went for. While Foster’s signature dark lyrics, which hide themselves within seemingly frivolous dance-pop, remain in Supermodel, they lack the simple deliciousness that they did before. The heavier tone of Supermodel is very evident.
However, this album definitely does not lack in musical quality; Supermodel is in no way a bad album. While there is a lot to be missed for some fans from the sounds of Torches, this album is a plunge in to new, uncharted waters for Foster the People that could take them to great places.
“Best Friend,” which has blown up in popularity on Tumblr, is a great song that keeps some of those iconic, non-Western pop beats and hidden darker themes that Foster is known for. Called a “great summer belter” by The Guardian, “Best Friend” definitely delivers. “Pseudologia Fantastica,” full of 1970s psychedelic-guitar-like sound mixed with modern synth, is reminiscent of a lot of vintage sounds, but is quite unique on this album.
“The Truth,” is almost beautiful (a word not used often in pop these days) in its vocal quality. Foster has an undeniable and almost crazy range to his voice, which still holds almost every song on this album up. It is the perfect balance of memorability while still retaining its meaning.
All in all, while Supermodel definitely has quality, its anchor may not have settled in the intended place. One thing that does set it apart is that it is very listener-independent: some fans may embrace the change in style on Supermodel and latch onto the almost alt-rock sounds of “Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon” or the slow, ballad-quality of “Fire Escape.”
Some, like myself, slowly embrace the newer styles while retaining optimism because of the great talent this band has. Judging from their sophomore album, which is usually a struggle for any band, Foster the People seems in no danger of drowning.
Leave a lot of room open for what their possible third album could be.