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Foster the People Are Back, and You're Underrating Them

Foster the People Are Back, and You're Underrating Them
Courtesy of the artist's Facebook page

My first taste of Foster the People was hearing KROQ's Locals Only playing "Pumped Up Kicks" in January 2011. My roommates and I sat in the back of my station wagon, waxing up surfboards and getting ready to paddle at El Porto in Manhattan Beach. I hadn't seen the music video, in which Foster and Co. surf the same exact spot, but it was one of those songs that immediately embodied that sonic California spirit.

Fast-forward three years and we've recently been given the first full taste of Foster the People's sophomore release, Supermodel, with "Coming of Age," a considerably spaced-out pop song from the band.

More than just a band whose vinyl is sold en masse at Urban Outfitters, Foster the People should have stayed on the collective radar for having released one of the best pop records of the past 10 years.

Torches, the L.A.-based band's 2011 release, did ride high on the commercial success of "Pumped Up Kicks," a song title that still causes people to either whistle that earworm of a hook or cringe in remembrance of its overplaying, but the record rode on so much more than just that single.

Torches, the singles it generated included, proved to be a nuanced work and a massive vehicle for Mark Foster's hooks. His past as a jingle writer shows in spades as virtually every song on the record has a hummable element to it, built around layered pop structures. As a whole, Torches was critically acclaimed, landing Grammy nominations and legendary endorsements like Elton John.

 

Even in an age when content is absorbed, digested and rejected at an astounding rate, Torches still feels like a modern-day classic at first listen. It's one of those rare records where there's not a song to be skipped -- from the stuttering hip-shaker of opener "Helena Beat" to the grand, building closing track "Warrant," the sequencing, sometimes more than the production, is a standout element of the album.

They're able to maintain the edge of modern rock 'n' roll while bringing both world music-inspired progression and driving synth textures simultaneously. It's a rare set of sensibilities that few artists can pull together this smoothly while still being radio-ready.

Because of their quick ascent, some detractors are also quick to label Foster The People as a studio band, able to write a hell of an album but not much else. But for those who have seen the band live, Foster exudes every lovable frontman characteristic, pulling pages from the Freddie Mercury handbook with a black Fender Jaguar around his shoulders while the rest of the band engages in instrumental swapping and guitar-tossing, Pete Townshend antics.

With the impeding release of Supermodel and a run of festival dates, it's as good a time as any to familiarize yourself with Torches and get amped for their live set. If "Coming of Age" is any indication, Foster The People isn't going anywhere -- we might as well sit back and sing along with the pop tour de force they're becoming.

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