By Scott Thompson, Arts & Entertainment Editor ||
Three years ago, Foster the People took the music world by storm with the release of its debut album, Torches. This release garnered attention after the band’s first single, “Pumped Up Kicks,” was posted as a free download on the band’s website. It spent eight weeks at the number three spot of the Billboard Hot 100 and culminated in a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Duo/Trio Performance at the end of 2011.
After a lengthy tour and recording process, Foster the People returns with more grit and maturity, elements that seemed to be lacking from their debut album.
Supermodel sees Mark Foster, the band’s creator, attacking social issues and capitalism, topics about which he is very passionate. In the Supermodel documentary series, Foster added that the record’s title, its concept, and even its artwork were created out of the idea of how our self-worth is defined by how many retweets or likes we receive. The album creates a sense of presenting ourselves as supermodels, always walking on a stage and putting on
This concept is made clear with the song “Ask Yourself,” a beat-driven, moderate groove that shows off Foster’s smooth, hypnotic falsetto and the iconic Foster the People background vocals, which combine to create an atmosphere unique to this band. While enthralled by the musicality of this performance, the listener can make out angsty lyrics, such as, “And you say that dreamers always get what they desire / Well I’ve found, the more I want the less I’ve got.”
This theme remains consistent throughout the album, showing Foster’s passionate resentment against this trend.
The album’s first single, “Coming of Age,” follows with a shift of blame. The track has an entirely different feel. Whereas “Ask Yourself” relies on trancelike harmonies and a backing acoustic guitar, an energetic falsetto and electric guitar groove drive, “Coming of Age” lies beneath introspective lyrics, such as “I’m always moving forward and not looking back / But I tend to leave a trail of debt while I’m moving ahead.”
The vigor of this track stands out on the album but isn’t alone in its liveliness.
“Pseudologia Fantastica” uses various experimental sounds to create a swirling background, with Foster singing primarily in his falsetto and reverberation causing it to swell within the track, only to lead to responses from the background vocals, which almost chant, “Why’d you say that you’d come right back for my love, for my faith?”
A Beatles influence can be easily observed in this song, as its experimentalism uncannily resembles the track “A Day in the Life.”
One of the most unique songs on the album, “Best Friend” sounds more like Foster the People from Torches but with an electric guitar intro reminiscent of the disco era. Backing vocals also distinguish this track from the rest of the album, as they don’t just swell into the background but rather give this song a groove and backbone. It’s refreshing to see Foster the People still have a grasp on the sound with which they gained their fame.
“Best Friend” also provides the most optimistic song on Supermodel, as it discusses supporting a friend who’s “all strung out,” giving advice such as “I am here, no matter where you are / I’m waiting here, with open arms, no matter where you are / Sometimes, you have to wait until it passes by / like a satellite or star, no matter where you are.”
It’s a nice change of pace from the cynical nature that dominates the rest of the album, and shows that Foster hasn’t lost his grasp on humanity yet.
Supermodel is a step in the right direction for a small, alternative band. With the success of Torches, it was hard to imagine Foster the People adequately following up with its sophomore release, but the trio has triumphed with bold experiments, edgy lyrics, and an overall enthralling musical experience. Hopefully it won’t be such a long wait before they release another album, but Supermodel was definitely worth the wait.
Sophomore Scott Thompson is the Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.