It’s very rare that a band releases a debut album that defines them immediately, but this is exactly what indie-pop heroes Foster The People managed back in 2011 with ‘Torches’. Songs like ‘Houdini’ and ‘Call It What You Want’ became the songs of the summer; the perfect aftermath of a collision between half of the genres under the sun. It was completely original and oh-so-very-Foster; there’s no mistaking those dreamy harmonies and dulcet tones. Not to forget, of course, ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, the hit that rocketed them to fame and became something of an anthem that even my parents recognise and sing along to on the few occasions that I get control of the dinner music.
So after a success like ‘Torches’ that I’m still listening to regularly 3 years later, it was inevitable that a follow-up album that lived up to or even exceeded those standards was a pretty big ask. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that I’ve hotly awaited their second album to see what they’ve managed to concoct this time. After only a few listens, I must say that ‘Supermodel’ doesn’t fail to please.
The album kicks off with ‘Are You What You Want To Be’, which I’ve heard many people rightly point out has a very Vampire Weekend-esque feel to it, matched with their compulsory catchy sing-along style chorus. The pace slows down for ‘Ask Yourself’, a song that takes you to sunny-beached summer holidays as Mark’s silky vocals glide over the dreamy lyrics. ‘Coming of Age’ is the next song and is arguably the most reminiscent of ‘Torches’ whilst still definitely acting as a move away from their roots- although a move towards what I am unsure as of yet. It seems Foster have used this as a chance to ignore the pressure to fit into a genre and to push the boundaries and find their own place in the music industry.
Skimming past the unassuming yet charming ‘Nevermind’ we hit the real stand out track on the album- ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’. At five and a half minutes, it’s the longest song, and it seems just like any other FTP song until you hit the fourth minute and it starts to slowly descend into a psychedelic frenzy. And I mean that in the best way possible. This is picked up again by the almost choir-like interlude that comes in the form of thirty-three-second-long ‘The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones’. Leaving you sitting there confused, no time is wasted before leaping into the opening riff of ‘Best Friend’ in a way which is very atypical of Foster, before continuing towards a chorus and bridge which is much more familiar, yet somehow still fresh.
Following this you find the wonderfully new and original ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon’, which hides it’s unusually thought-provoking lyrics behind electronic undertones and the only track on which their full display of vocal range is displayed (plus I can’t help but note the fantastic song name). This is succeeded by ‘Goats in Trees’, which I have heard many people call the low-point of the album, yet I can’t help but find the simple, almost country-like feel of it rather charming. Not something you’d be playing on repeat but it slots into the album nicely, fully proving that Foster have indeed done some growing up in the past three years.
The penultimate track is called ‘The Truth’ and is possibly the epitome of the dream-like state which the album induces, with layer upon layer of refined vocals paired with a toned down backing beat that is an absolute pleasure on the ears. As if they hadn’t varied enough in the tracks so far, the final track ‘Fire Escape’ is almost heart-achingly beautiful. We finally get a chance to hear Mark’s exquisitely raw vocals with no pretenses to hide behind; a totally unexpected yet warmly welcomed acoustic conclusion that somehow just works.
So is it better than their debut? I would have to hesitate before affirming this since I loved ‘Torches’ and it still remains firmly in my most-played pile of vinyl, but I feel like ‘Supermodel’ is one of those albums that will just keep growing on me. Whilst I can’t help compare its relatively laid-back feel to the makes-you-want-to-dance aspect of their debut that I loved so much, I’m definitely excited to see how the new tracks will translate live when I see them at Reading in August. So well done boys, you’ve done it again. Not half bad.
Best Tracks: ‘Ask Yourself’, ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon’, ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’ and ‘Fire Escape’