Foster the People ignite the Torches

By Jessica Holdsworth

Foster the People busted onto the alternative music scene with the undeniably catchy “Pumped Up Kicks” which has over 33 million views on YouTube. Its mix of sunny harmonies and astral-whip vocals are paradoxical of the chilling lyrics about a high school shooter. Like many of the tracks on their debut album, Torches, its repetitive chorus and melodious whistling ensures the rhythmic trance that will keep you singing “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks/you better run, better run, outrun my gun.” Front man Mark Foster describes it as “a ‘fuck you’ song to the hipsters in a way – but it’s a song the hipsters are going to want to dance to.” 

Torches, released 23 May 2011, embodies the indie rock spirit with a splash of disco exuberance and psychedelic pop. The LA trio was formed in 2009 by Mark Foster (keyboards, guitar, lead vocals) with Mark Pontius (drums) and Cubbie Fink (bass, backing vocals). The album is ignited by the neon anthem “Helena Beat”. As the momentum builds up and Foster’s electrifying falsetto kicks in, it does not matter that the lyrics are somewhat intangible. However, the chorus draws the attention back to the words with creatively elusive phrases. The decadent composition of guitar flange and vocals maintain its energetic vibrancy even after hearing it regularly.

The album’s versatility and genre intermingling seems to capture the musicality of spanning decades. Their obvious MGMT influence is evident especially in “Houdini“, which seems to closely resemble “Electric Feel“. However, the playfulness they bring to the punchy drumbeats is a flashback to 80’s synthpop and creates some dance floor magic. “Call it what you want” is an unquestionably groovy track, introducing the early 90’s Jamiroquai feel that resonates throughout the album. A particularly vibrant summer track, “Don’t Stop” could easily be background music but its catchy Beach Boys melody and repetitiveness makes it easy to sing along to and hard to get out of your head. The upbeat electric trance of “Miss You” is contradicted with organic sounds of pipe organs while sharp, clear vocals offer an effortless yearning cry. The least memorable songs “Life on the Nickel” and “warrant” are not complete write offs however, they do lack the charisma other songs offer.

The infectious rhythms created on Torches do not offer an authentic compilation but rather reintroduce the eclectic harmonies of the familiar. Balancing a colourful array of instruments and moments of musical genius, Foster the People have proved to be more than just the indie band of the moment.

Official music video for Helena Beat by Foster The People. (c) 2011 Sony Music Entertainment


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