Foster The People

Columbia, 2011

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


If all you’ve heard of Foster The People is their single “Pumped Up Kicks,” get this album. You see, “Kicks” is a strange beast of a song. It was a viral success in 2010, gaining the Los Angeles, California group a loyal following, appearances at Coachella and South by Southwest, and finally a record signing. Torches, their first full-length release, hit the airwaves in 2011, and it’s a solid, ineffable collection of dance-y, poppy goodness.

But beneath all the shimmering melodies and hooks that you’ll hear over and over in your head and in malls, there’s a weird darkness to this group. It’s what inevitably stands out in “Pumped Up Kicks,” a seemingly innocuous pop song that reveals itself to be about school shootings. Amid the charming falsetto vocals and whistling are lines like “He found a six-shooter gun in his dad’s closet…all the other kids with the pumped up kicks / You better run, better run / Outrun my gun.” And yet the beats are so catchy that I’d hazard a guess that most people just bypass the lyrics. It’s a theme throughout the album: the dance-pop is riddled with a darker underbelly, lines that make you think twice when positioned against the absolutely peppy beats.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But “Kicks” aside, one listen to Torches makes it clear why you hear these songs blaring constantly on the radio, and why half the album has been licensed to various shows, movies, and video games. The group, comprised by vocalist/guitarist Mark Foster, bassist Cubbie Fink, and drummer Mark Pontius, clearly has an ear for melodies. Album opener “Helena Beat” is indie pop at its best, replete with bold choruses, Foster’s slinky falsetto, and instrumentation that’s densely layered but still punchy. These are subtle but sticky hooks, perfect to play on loop.

Track after track is a smash hit, from the fizzy, danceable “Call It What You Want” to “Color On The Walls (Don’t Stop),” which has recently been the soundtrack to Nissan commercials. But when the sheer, candy-colored energy of the singles wears off, the group still fires of some heartwarming cuts. Both “Waste” and “I Would Do Anything For You” are gorgeous, ballads in tone but buoyed by the complexity of the backbeats. “I Would Do Anything For You” has been criticized for being too simple, but I love the bare sentiment of a line like “Ooh la love / I’ve fallen in love and it’s better this time than ever before,” particularly when delivered in Foster’s earnest, lilting falsetto. Meanwhile, “Miss You” is like pumped up Coldplay, fervently building to a subdued, affecting chorus, then clasping back into a dance party. 

At nearly forty minutes, Torches is just well-measured throughout, pop in sensibility but indie at heart. It’s been touted as one of the best albums of 2011 (and endorsed by The Edge no less!), and you’re bound to hear this everywhere you go. With their singles and beyond, Foster The People is definitely worth checking out.

Rating: A-

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© 2012 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.