The music industry had every reason to write off the 20-month-old baby more commonly known as Foster the People. Prior to Torches, the band had just an EP and a mildly popular song to their name — the latter being “Pumped Up Kicks,” which managed to bite, scratch and claw its way up to number four on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Other than that, the outfit previously known as “Foster & the People” (at least before that pesky ampersand was dropped) was untried and untrue, just another indie band hopeful in the vast musical landscape of Los Angeles. However, with Torches, Foster the People has emerged from the detritus bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, poised (with a little bit of luck) to take the independent music scene by storm.
Foster the People
Though it is and will likely continue to be the most successful track off of the album, “Pumped Up Kicks” is the black sheep on Foster the People’s first release. With a pop-oriented chorus and a laid-back aura, the single is cool and smooth where the other tracks are delightfully fidgety. The opening “Helena Beat” employs a dangerously dance-inspiring beat and lively synthesizers, as does the majority of Torches (pinning Foster the People somewhere between Passion Pit and MGMT). Likewise, “Houdini” is absolutely contagious in its catchiness, and proves to be the best track on the record.
Instead of the common problems that most first releases run into — say, lack of material or general inconsistency — Torches struggles most with its own innate weirdness. This isn’t necessarily detrimental; in fact, “I Would Do Anything For You” is eerily reminiscent of an Abba hit on its third can of Red Bull (seriously, with a chorus of “Ooh la love, I’ve fallen in love”), but it works. However, “Life on the Nickel” has just a few too many gimmicks, and comes off as eclectic rather than inventive.
All in all, Torches is much like a glass of champagne. It’s crisp, fun and even almost effervescent, but like your average Dom Pérignon, it starts going flat after about half an hour. However, the last three songs, while novel in their own ways, are ultimately disposable. Their sound is unique even if it does still require some polish, and shows promise. The album proves that, while the band has the chops to make cohesive work, with a little more effort it can produce a consistent and exceptional record.
Off of the heels of Torches, Mark Foster and his fellow musicians have a busy summer planned. After a stint on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” the momentum-charged act will head to Washington for the Sasquatch Festival. Then, following a packed summer of touring through the United States, Europe and Australia, Foster the People will appear both at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands Festival. Though a festival invitation can be a positive sign, it can also be an omen of fleeting stardom. For the time being, consider Foster the People unproven but bright with potential.