Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Music Review: Foster the People – “Torches”

Here is the album for the fans of the in-between; those who, like me, love to toe the line between the catchiness of pop and the originality of indie. Here is the album for those that loved MGMT’s “Oracular Spectacular”, but mostly just the singles. Foster the People may be the biggest buzz indie band of 2011 (who knows how to judge these things), gaining gigs at festivals and earning VH1’s “You Oughta Know Label” in the process. It’s even possible that you’ve heard “Pumped Up Kicks” before.

Regular readers of this blog know that gaining a little popularity will not keep me from making a recommendation, and that I’m here to let you know whether or not certain albums are worth your time and money, not try to pump weirdness down your ears (though sometimes a little weird is awesome!). Well, ladies and gentlemen, this album is worth both your time and money, but act fast while you can still play it during the summer at high volume. The rhythm and electronics are infectious, carrying tunes like “Helena Beat” to near-special levels. But it’s decisions like the horns and swarming group falsetto that take over the end of “Houdini” that take this album to the next level. And if you’ve heard “Pumped Up Kicks” before, you know that it’s dang near impossible not to tap your toes.

The album is not without its missteps, but even less interesting songs like “Life on the Nickel” still fit well into the context of the entire album. Overall Foster the People show an impressive knack for taking an late 80’s/early 90’s sound and mixing it together with a modern approach, pop sensibilities, and surprising hooks. Although “Helena Beat” and “Houdini” are my current flavors of the week, there are actually two other moments on the album that cement it for me. The first comes on “Call It What You Want”, a pulsating tune of self-awareness. They ask “’Now what’s your style and who you listen to?’”, before squealing “who cares??”. I haven’t seen this much self-awareness since LCD Soundsystem spent 8 minutes on “Losing My Edge” trying to figure out how to be cool to hipsterdom. The second moment comes at the very end, when, after 33 minutes of energy, a lengthy synth opener is cut by the simplest piano bit. Taken on its own it may lack that special something, but as an album closer it’s a perfect move.

There is always a danger with bands like Foster the People that they’ll be too weird for the pop crowd, but too poppy for the indie crowd. Ignore those sentiments, because it’s both. And it’s good.


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