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Foster the People’s new album ‘Supermodel’ stumbles on the runway

March 27, 2014

 

BRENNEN LEGE
Staff Reporter

 

A girl made of patterns in blue, purple, white and gold is vomiting a poem about materialism, insecurity and the American Dream, as hundreds of cameras flash at her in her moment of weakness.

Supermodel Foster the People Rating: 2 out of 5 stars –Photo courtesy of Columbia Records

Supermodel
Foster the People
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
–Photo courtesy of Columbia Records

 

This is the visage of “Supermodel,” the sophomore album of Los Angeles band Foster the People, and a follow up to the 2011 album “Torches,” which gave us the smash hits “Don’t Stop (Color on the Wall),” “Helena Beat,” and, of course, “Pumped Up Kicks.”

 

Where “Torches” used catchy hooks, growling synths, and hard kicks to deliver a collage of unique sounds, its successor seems to want to one-up it in every way. But this album isn’t just a louder “Torches.”

 

It is easy to tell the band really wanted to broaden its sound, with its larger variety of instruments, heavier percussion, and naturalistic sound to get away from the electro-infused pop that was “Torches.” The end product, however, leaves the production on “Supermodel” sounding really cluttered in places.

 

After a forgettable four-song opening-stretch, the album does not really hit its stride until the grittier track, “Pseudologia Fantastica,” ditching pop elements for a much welcomed harder approach. The song feels almost like a throwback to rock songs during the early 2000’s. The whining, grungy-sounding guitar riffs blend well with David Foster’s vocal range.

 

The album’s highlight comes in the atmospheric acoustic guitar strums of “Goats in Trees.” Opening and closing with the distant howling of wolves, the song stands apart from the rest in overall quality because it doesn’t try to be more than it needs to be. The stripped down production on this track lets the listener fully hear the heartfelt lyrics that Foster sings. The song does a really good job creating this moody, nighttime scene for the listener to get lost in.

 

“Best Friend,” another single on “Supermodel,” is another high point of the album. Foster’s vocals once again shine on this groovy track. The short guitar struts match the trumpet flourishes sprinkled throughout. The rhythmic bass grooves mesh nicely with the low-pounding drums. This is just one of those “get up and dance” tracks, it is hard not to bob your head or tap your feet.

 

Most of the 11 songs on the album might have had actual substance, but it was hard to tell over the amount of instrumentation stuffed into them. From bombastic African drums to cleverly sampled A$AP Rocky songs, some of the best parts of the album drown in the ocean of noise.

 

There is something in each song to catch the listener’s ear, but too quickly the band’s apparent need to sound grandiose and over-the-top leave tracks sounding too similar because of the same formula they all seem to stick to: noisy, unnecessary production.

 

It’s no surprise that the best two songs on “Supermodel,” “Goats in Trees” and “Fire Escape,” are the only ones that choose not to go the route of the others. It would be interesting to hear a Foster album that went the route of “Goats,” something a little quieter, minimal instead of maximal.

 

Change is always good for artists from one album to the next. It means a band is evolving. In the case of Foster the People, it’s hard not to have mixed opinions after listening to the album. True to its namesake, “Supermodel’s” many layers that “make-up” the production hides the true beauty lying under the surface.

 

Email comments to bsl008@latech.edu.

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