Foster the People: Supermodel – I’ll admit: I totally wrote Foster the People off after hearing ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ for the umpteenth time on just about every form of media imaginable. And then I caught myself unconsciously singing the chorus back in the shower, in the car, on the train, walking my dog, cleaning my apt, etc. It was like a drug addiction I couldn’t quit. I finally gave in a download their debut album Torches. Like ‘Pumped Up Kicks,’ there wasn’t an ounce of fat on their debut; just perfectly crafted, highly addictive melodies. And, frontman Mark Foster actually had something to say lyrically. It was a recipe for pop perfection. After such a rock solid debut the stakes are obviously high for Foster the People’s sophomore album, Supermodel. However, this time around the ex-jingle writing frontman has taken on a more mature and introspective approach to pop rock with myriad musical influences. When it works it REALLY works. But, Supermodel ultimately ends up sounding like Foster the People sans the fun and originality. There are still plenty of great moments, just not as strong a follow up to such a satisfying debut as one would hope.
Things get started on a high note with ‘Are You What You Want To Be.’ It’s not as overtly catchy as anything they’ve released in the past but there’s a certain charm that screams Foster the People about this track with Foster’s childlike vocal stylings. It perfectly captures the essence of Foster the People while maintaing that mature tone that the band is shooting for. In doing so, it seems like the band is making not so subtle nods to a handful of indie pop allstars. ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’ is a great listen but is entirely too reminiscent of a leftover MGMT track. And, ‘The Truth’ flirts with a subtly dubsteppy groove like that of Alt-J‘s ‘Fitzpleasure,’ which is a comparison I didn’t think I’d be making going into this record. These experimental nods end up reading more like unoriginality, unfortunately.
Lead off single ‘Coming Of Age’ is what I’d hope this band’s actual coming of age, sophomore release would sound more like. Even though the verse and hook are a little underwhelming, the throwback to 80′s pop really works in a David Bowie kind of way. ‘Best Friend’ is another fantastic highlight with a funky dance groove and Bee Gees-esque falsetto that really is so much fun. The 80′s pop influence makes so much more sense than borrowing from modern indie rock, and it’s utterly apparent. As a result, Supermodel is unbalanced.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Foster’s truly original and chameleon-like vocalisms. He shifts from nasally pop singer, to falsetto rock star, to baritone crooner (‘Goats in Trees’) all in the span of these 11 tracks. So, even when some of these songs don’t necessarily work he’s at least intriguing enough to listen to just because his voice is so different and versatile. He’s knows how to breathe life into a pop song that’s for sure.
Most of the problem with Supermodel is with comparison. It’s just too easy make lazy comparisons and write the band off saying “Oh, they just sound like so-and so.” Especially, because Foster the People has an undeniably Foster The People sound that they could build a successful career off of. The other level of comparison is the one to their debut. Torches is just so tight in its sound and production that a sophomore slump was in order even before the album was released. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily call Supermodel a slump. For such an overtly accessible band the album is rather experimental; that’s never a bad thing. If anything, this record is a stumbly triumph that sheds light on what works and doesn’t work for Foster The People. The bar was just set so high for them as a medium of instant gratification that when they don’t meet that unfair expectation it leaves a bit to be desired. Either way, throw some of these bangers on a summer party mix and revel in the handful of glorious pop moments that Supermodel has to offer…6.2/10