Three years ago, Foster the People stormed the radio waves with their single, “Pumped up Kicks.” Love it or hate it, the song put their name out there and brought them to the forefront of the music scene. The rest of their first album, Torches, rocked a synth-driven, alternative sound. On Tuesday, March 18, Foster the People’s new album hit the shelves (and iTunes).
Their sophomore album, Supermodel, was announced last year and was called “polarizing” by the band’s leader, Mark Foster. This made many fans nervous, and it made many fans even more excited.
But just how polarizing is this album?
Earlier this year, FTP released their first single, “Coming of Age” along with this video. While the video is cool (and worth watching), the song itself was a disappointment to me. Certainly it’s a great song—and I still listen to it a lot—but it felt like it belonged on Torches. If they were so polarized from their debut album, why didn’t this single portray that? It is a poppy, guitar driven song. Mark Foster keeps his signature vocal style throughout the song, and the lyrics are radio-friendly (most likely to avoid the same controversy they faced with “Pumped up Kicks”). The synth feels very similar to the songs on Torches, and the bass line and percussion keep a solid beat. As I said, the song is good; it just doesn’t feel new.
My concerns, however, were quickly erased with the release of their second single, “Pseudologia Fantastica.” I could tell just by the title that this song would be the polarizing single I was hoping for. The song starts off with a slowly building drum beat and explodes into a synth-powered, psychedelic explosion. And it’s “fantastica.” Honestly, this song is the departure I was looking for from FTP.
The band then released a third single, “Best Friend.” It starts off with a groovy bass line and then the chorus kicks in in a funky burst of sound and energetic falsetto. The whole song is energetic and full of life, but it carefully avoids wandering into pop territory. Altogether, “Best Friend” and “Pseudologia Fantastica” set the tone for the rest of the album.
The song I was personally excited for before the album came out was “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon.” Of course, my excitement was derived strictly from the title of the song. When I heard it for the first time, I was happy to find my excitement was well earned. The song has the same feeling as “Pseudologia,” but with a darker tone to it.
Other standout songs include the first track on the album, “Are You What You Want to Be?” and “Ask Yourself—“ both of which are upbeat, fast-paced anthems—and the 38 second intermission “The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones,” which serves as a great transition from the upbeat poppy rhythms of the first half of the album to the darker, more reserved second half.
The album also features three acoustic songs—something totally uncharacteristic of FTP’s sound form Torches. The first of these is a perfect “rainy day” song, “Nevermind.” The song still focuses on the band, rather than Foster and his guitar, which isn’t bad. As a matter of fact, it’s quite good. It has a sort of “indie coffee shop” vibe to it.
The second acoustic track is “Goats in Trees” which removes some elements of the band (notably the drums, but it features two guitars instead of a bass). In this song, Foster shows off his stellar vocal range in the second verse where he alters his voice to make it sound like a different singer before smoothly rising up into his normal range. The song feels more like you’re listening to a story than a FTP song, in a good way.
The final (and most reserved) acoustic track is “Fire Escape.” The song wraps up the album on a bit of a solemn note and features only Foster and an acoustic guitar. It’s quiet, reserved, and sorrowful—a complete departure from FTP’s sound. And it is amazing. There isn’t much else to say about the song, it is just good. It’s a slow, acoustic arrangement and it strikes an emotional chord, so to speak, with the listener.
The only song I didn’t like on the album was “The Truth.” It’s not a bad song, but it sounded too different. Whereas other songs still sound like FTP, this one feels like a weird MGMT song that doesn’t belong on Supermodel. That being said, I’m sure there are people who will love this song and hate the ones I loved.
Overall, Supermodel is the sophomore album FTP fans deserved. It retains elements from Torches but embodies it’s own different sound that shows an evolution of not only the band, but also Mark Foster’s ability as a songwriter. The subject matter addressed in the album is darker than the poppy, defining tales of Torches, but the music retains the energetic, funky, synth-driven excellence of their debut album.