Halftime Leisure

Critical Voices: Foster the People, Supermodel

March 20, 2014

Following Foster the People’s unexpected success with the release of Torches in 2011, the trio, led by Mark Foster, faced an entirely new level of expectation. Fans wanted another taste of the group’s signature synthetic and contagious sound. But Supermodel, their latest release, does not stick as easily as their previous LP. Foster has clearly taken the style of the group in an entirely different direction with this sophomore work, which contains deeper exploration of angst through it’s lyricism that ultimately makes this album well worth the listen.

The album dives right in with a strong declaration of the band’s departure from their established sound. The first song “Are You What You Want to Be?” is perhaps the biggest outlier of the album. With clear West African influences, this song incorporates an upbeat, pop-like quality played over tribal drums. This song is succeeded by “Ask Yourself,” where Foster repeats “is this the life you’ve been waiting for?,”establishing Foster’s struggle with the newfound fame of the group.

Through the shifts in style, Foster oscillates between optimism and despair. “Coming of Age”, a clear reflection on the group’s rise to fame, has the same light and bouncy feel to the style from which they initially gained recognition, but later songs of the album like “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon”, “Goats In Trees”, and “The Truth” evolve from anger to despair to exhaustion.

The album resolves the conflicting sounds and strong emotions in the final song “Fire Escape”, a soft acoustic ballad about young L.A. street urchins. Serving as a final manifestation of the effect of fame on Foster, this song attests to the older and wiser man behind the lyrics – a man who has traded his youthful and jubilant sound for a calmer, more experienced approach.

If you’re looking for another Torches, Supermodel is sure to disappoint. Whether for better or for worse, Foster the People has clearly decided to go in another direction–or, more accurately, about twelve different directions.

The album is strong both lyrically and thematically; however, it is stylistically perplexing. Each different incorporated sound has its own merit, but the album on the whole lacks coherence.That being said, all of these different styles have potential. Supermodel stands as a testament to Foster the People’s true talent. It is a showcase of the variety of style this trio is capable of and a preview of the potential this group has if they can pick one and run with it.

 Voices Choices: “Coming of Age,” “Fire Escape”

“Coming of Age”

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