Sound — 7
At this point, probably a large majority of everybody in the world has heard the track "Pumped Up Kicks," and if not the full song, then a clip for a commercial. When Foster The People released their single "Pumped Up Kicks" or their debut album shortly after, "Torches," they pretty much had instant international success. The main creative force behind Foster The People, Mark Foster, originally worked writing commercial jingles before breaking through with Foster The People, making it no surprise that almost every song from his debut album was commercially licensed for commercials and TV shows. Regardless of the very commercial nature of the music, "Pumped Up Kicks" is a seriously catchy tune. Now, just a few short years later, Mark Foster is bringing us a concept album about how jacked up commercialism, consumerism, and capitalism are. There are 11 tracks on the album with a runtime of just under 48 minutes. There have been 3 singles released from the album: "Coming of Age" in January, "Pseudologia Fantastica" in February, and "Best Friend" in early March. Mark Foster has stated in interviews that he has made an attempt to make a more organic album, using less electronic elements and more real instrumentation.
The album opens with the track "Are You What You Want to Be?," which begs the question is Mark Foster having some type of identity crisis? The vocals, percussion, and bassline have an almost Caribbean vibe to them. Next up is "Ask Yourself," which is an acoustic driven track, uses handclaps as one of the primary percussion instruments on the track and has a laidback feel to it. Next up is "Coming of Age," which is also the first single from the album. It is definitely a finely crafted pop song. "Nevermind" is another acoustic guitar driven song, with a vocal chorus performing the actual song hook, and containing a very sing-able guitar solo melody. The second single, "Pseudologia Fantastica," is up next and it is all about vibe. "The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones" is a very short track that is just a choir singing a melody for roughly 30 seconds. "Best Friend" is next, which was the third single from the album, and is a heavily funk-influenced track. "A Beginner's Guide to Destroying the Moon," which is one of the most "electronic" songs on the album with some heavy processing being a key part of the track's overall sound. "Goats in Trees" is essentially an acoustic guitar and a voice, but with some sneaky processing to create some interesting effects for the track, and a lot of wordless hum-singing going on. "The Truth" is another of the more "electronic" sounding tracks from the album, but it somehow still comes out sounding like one of the "cleanest" tracks on the album to my ears. The album closes out with the track "Fire Escape," which is a much more "laid back"' track than the rest of the album, with a very relaxed and slightly melancholy vibe.
Lyrics — 7
Mark Foster is a sufficient vocalist, though his main strength seems to lie more in crafting really solid pop songs than the actual vocal performances. Paul Epworth, Rich Costey, and Greg Kurstin - who had helped produce Foster The People's debut, also helped with the writing and production on "Supermodel." Backing vocals were provided by Cubbie Fink and Mark Pontius, who are essentially the other 2/3rds of Foster The People. As a sample of the lyrics from the album, here are some lyrics from the single, "Best Friend": "When your best friends are strung out/ you'll do everything you can/ cause you're never gonna let it get em down/ when you find it all around/ yeah it comes in waves/ but it's hardest from the start/ feeling sleeping in the field again/ oh I can feel, I can feel/ I can feel, it's beginning to end/ Yeah, premonition smiling in the dark/ oh, I can see, I can see/ I can see the story starting to arc."
Overall Impression — 7
Essentially, Mark Foster is a pop musician who seems to wish he was making something a little more edgy, but isn't actually willing or able to cross the line into making something that is actually anti-pop, or truly rebellious. This isn't a bad thing, as he does craft some of the most finely crafted pop songs being released today but he will have to find some peace with what he does being commercially driven, or he will have to make some substantial changes to what he's doing. My favorite tracks from the album are probably "Best Friend," "The Truth" and "Nevermind." I didn't really dislike any songs on the album, but pop music will never be my favorite genre. For what it is, Foster The People seem to be very good at what they do.