Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Torches" By Foster the People

"Torches" was released on May 23, 2011 on Columbia Records.

Talk about a band immediately blowing up! Foster the People's debut album, "Torches," has already spawned a summer hit, "Pumped Up Kicks." I couldn't let my knowledge of the band stop there, because frankly "Pumped Up Kicks" is one of the best carefree summer dance jams in recent memory. Of course, a read through the lyrics reveal a story that seems on the surface to be about a murderer. Regardless, Foster the People bring a sparkly, jangly twist on the 80's inspired-indie-synth vibe that sets the the perfect stage for a summer of jumping and chanting. Sometimes, however, the album sounds a little bit overproduced and there's some songs that entirely lack staying power. You'll find yourself skipping through some tracks to find the tunes you're looking for. For a debut effort, I am thoroughly impressed with Foster the People and I'm excited to hear their sophomore album, where they will hopefully fine tune the sound they very obviously have a knack for.

That sound is a keen blend of eternally danceable rhythms beneath layers of swirling synthesizers, guitars and unique almost-falsetto vocals. When this album is on, it is most definitely on, for instance with the single "Pumped Up Kicks" and the leading track, "Helena Beat," Foster the People manage to wrap interesting lyrics and irresistibly dance-ready grooves through tight melodies that will adhere themselves to your mind. The lyrics are at once a highlight and a sticking point. Foster the People have what I like to call the B & S Syndrome. That is to say you find yourself humming, dancing and singing along to their incredible pop sensibilities when suddenly you realize the music is not at all indicative of the song's lyrical content, not unlike a Belle and Sebastian song (see "Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying", "Piazza, New York Catcher", "Dirty Dream Number Two", et al). As previously mentioned, "Pumped Up Kicks" reads to me as a story about a shooting spree, and "Helena Beat" seems to be about a struggle with some sort of addiction but, man, they're great songs.

There are a few tracks where the simple equation that works so well on their best songs simply fails to pan out. Not to say these songs are bad but, it seems like these songs are more suited to the background of a fraternity mixer than an intense solo listen. On some tracks that offer promise (i.e. "Life on the Nickel" whose lyrics and melody are almost as irresistible as the chorus), the swirling synth layers overpower all the other great things about it. Besides the small selection of tracks that have this sound of over-production, the album toes the line between Passion Pit and radio-friendly MGMT songs. The over-produced songs sound like something a few bros would play out of a truck grilling hot dogs in a stadium parking lot.

All in all, I would recommend Foster the People. Their sound is mostly a fresh one; what is not fresh is still great. If these guys can really get a lock on their sound and come up with another set of songs as solid as this one, then their sophomore album will delight audiophiles and pop radio listeners alike. You can get the album from Foster the People's personal website and, of course, iTunes. You can keep up to date with the band on their Myspace and Facebook.

Rating: 7.8/10
Standout Tracks: "Pumped Up Kicks" "Helena Beat"  "Houdini"

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