Review : Foster The People - Torches
SputnikmusicFoster the People almost made me want to hate them from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong – “Pumped Up Kicks,” the band’s first single, is easy to love, a MGMT rehash filtered through the surly Strokes-ish vocals of leader Mark Foster, propelled by the kind of hook Apple marketing execs’ wet dreams are made of. No, it was more how I found the band playing a evening set at Coachella off the basis of a three-song EP; how, after enjoying said set, I browsed through summer concerts to see the synthpop group playing a two night set in L.A. that had already promptly sold out months in advance; how KROQ has already murdered said great single by relentless replay, turning a song I loved into one I was already sick of after a couple months, �* la MGMT’s “Time To Pretend;” See a trend here?
But I realized I was being selfish, and a bit jealous – this isn’t the first time a band has ridden the coattails of a great couple songs to a major label and national airplay, and far be it from me to hate a band that was merely guilty of knocking every pitch out of the park that came their way. As far as Foster the People go, it’s hard to blame them. Their self-titled EP was a fantastic three-song slice of electro-pop, the kind that MGMT and Passion Pit had already ridden in successive years to headlining festival slots. It’s the “in” sound right now, particularly in that glorified 18-24 demographic, and with “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Helena Beats” and “Houdini,” Foster the People could have done a lot worse than gifting the world with a remodeled MGMT devoid of any high art aspirations. These are powerfully neon-lit songs, summer anthems in the making that revel in surging synths and SoCal harmonies and hooks that sink deep. “Houdini,” in particular, is the kind of well produced jam that stands up to the best of their influences, a fist pumping piano part anchoring Foster’s waifish falsetto awash in day-glo electronics. It’s the kind of forward-thinking pop song that many an indie band would die for; Torches, thankfully, has about four or so more to spare.
The problem with Torches is the same problem uber-hyped groups like Black Kids have had in the past – we’ve already heard the best the band has had to offer. The three songs on the EP are the three best songs on the album, and it’s not even close. Those that are, most noticeably the Beach Boys ooh-la-las of “I Would Do Anything For You” and the inventive percussive rhythms underlying “Waste,” are unfortunately derailed by saccharine lyrics that call to mind the worst of electro-pop cash-ins. It makes me a little less confident that Foster, who, after all, chose the band name because he liked the “nurturing image it evoked of taking care of the people,” will be able to pair his considerable songwriting skill with lyrics that aren’t quite so stale....full text
CrawdaddyLA trio Foster the People aren’t reinventing the wheel on their debut full-length Torches, but they’re certainly staking their claim in the wild land of indie dance music. In a climate where there seems to be a new group born with every blog post, guitarist Matt Foster, bassist Cubbie Fink, and drummer Mark Pontius deliver a quickie full-length whose singles will certainly pad many summer playlists.
Foster the People isn’t looking for a niche audience but mass appeal, which began quickly with the release of their initial single “Pumped Up Kicks”, the stand-out track from an album of pop hits. “Kicks” starts off with a walking bass line, building with synth grooves and Foster’s come-hither vocals coming through a vintage mic. It’s sinister and sexy; you’ll be singing along well before you realize it’s a single about teen homicide, the chorus being, “All the other kids with the pumped-up kicks / Better run better run / Outrun my gun.”
Other songs on Torches don’t have the malicious tendencies that “Kicks” does and stick to more mainstream themes—most notably good times, optimism, and the idea of nothing to lose. Opening track “Helena Beat”, the follow-up single, begins with a stultified giggle and breaks open with techno sensibilities while talking about persevering for a good time in the face of light hardship. “Call it What You Want” comes right after “Kicks” with the ‘90s dance keys of Jamiroquai or Black Box, Foster’s voice changing from the sexualized rocker on the previous track to a more androgynous, higher registry.
It’s a formula we’ve seen before, but it has yet to get old: A mix of dance beats and actual musicianship paired with lyrics that are guaranteed to get lodged in your head. It’s no wonder that festival-goers at Coachella and beyond have eaten this up, as a sound that sells out in major markets and is highly anticipated at summer events. Artists like MNDR have already remixed a few of their singles for bigger dance appeal....full text
ConsequenceofsoundFunky, electronic-driven beats have been the most popular kid at the indie pop dance in recent years with the likes of Passion Pit and Hot Chip serving as current poster children. Tipping their hats to their predecessors, LA’s Foster the People are the latest young guns to bring these familiar, charged rhythms to the forefront on their anticipated debut LP, Torches. They’ve even primed its release with infectious lead single “Pumped Up Kicks”, a tour peppered with sold-out shows, and a Billboard climbing spree.
Having just banded up in 2009, it was Foster the People’s recent SXSW and Coachella appearances that garnered the most attention. Their debut’s heavy blend of throbbing, electronic rock and California-tinged soulful harmonies make for an attention-grabbing listen, but with a few weak points. Torches opens strong with the neon-lit “Helena Beat”, an anthem poised to become a summer standard. “Pumped Up Kicks” has been floating around for months but features enough catchy rhythms and whistling in its 3:59 playtime to stick in listeners’ heads and gloss over the song’s sinister theme. “Call it What You Want” and “Houdini” hearken back to an early ’90s Jamiroquai-esque punchy, piano-driven funk vibe, bolstering the album’s middle. However, lead singer Mark Foster’s falsetto comes off as a shrill yearning cry on “Miss You”, striking as a moment of diversion on Torches’ consistent blend.
Album closer “Warrant” serves as a steady pop send-off, clocking the album in at just over 38 minutes. Though Torches is a ready-made summer album, its staying power is questionable. It’s danceable and addictive, easy to play through a couple of times, but lacks multiple standouts for endurance. At times, the pulsing tempo and colorful instrumentation that make Torches so lively become repetitive. Foster the People’s live shows are sure to be energetic and faced with throngs of dancing co-eds, but the band needs a bit more variety to solidify their electropop soul sound before they’re labeled as wunderkinds of indie dance pop....full text
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