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Foster the People Torches Album Review

Keith Demolder, Staff Writer

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Band-Foster The People

Album-Torches

Record Label-Startime, Columbia

Album #-Debut

Sales-Gold (500,000)

The date is March 2010, an unknown band known as Foster the People, consisting of Mark Foster, a struggling L.A. musician, his friend Cubbie Fink, and artist Mark Pontius,  release a song known as “Pumped Up Kicks”; a tiny musical spark that erupts and catches like wildfire. The entire underground indie pop media and fan base go absolutely nuts about this mysterious group singing an insanely catchy song about guns and cool looking shoes. Soon enough after thousands of emails and phone calls Foster the People signs a mutli-album record deal with Columbia Record. Almost one year later the song is heard nation-wide as FTP releases their debut albumTorches. Within a matter of months of the release of their album, Foster the People becomes a world-wide sensation, playing on Letterman, SNL and other TV programs. Their song that started it all, ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ becomes a sleeper hit, selling over 5 million copies worldwide. Their album, consisting of electro-piano indie pop hits ‘Houdini’, ‘Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls), ‘Call It What You Want’ and ‘Helena Beat’ is nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 2012. Although Foster the People was snubbed of a Grammy, their album continues to excite and delight indie fans and music fans alike, even after two years. With such a multitude of great and exhilarating dance pop hits, Torchesleads me to believe that it could perhaps be one of the best debut albums of all-time. The variety of songs, the orchestrated piano, the vibrant chorus are just plain mind-boggling. Not only does it have super hits such as ‘Pumped Up Kicks and Houdini’, but it also has quality songs such as ‘I Would Do Anything For You’ and ‘Helena Beat’, making Torches one of the more well rounded Indie Albums of all-time. Without a doubt their next album will be great, but nothing as so perfectly produced as this one. Torches, an appropriate title for such a scorching hot album is sure to stay with us not only for 2011 or 2012, or 2013, but perhaps for decades and decades. Torches, the true definition of timeless.

 

Helena Beat-B+/A-(Reached #9 on Billboard Alternative Charts)
The beginning beat and the eerie child laughter in the background give way to Helena Beat’s up-tempo melodic and harmonic synths. The usually upbeat Foster the People bass is ever present throughout the song. The reverberant sound of Mark Foster is highlighted in all of the song’s lyrics, with the vibrant chorus entering intermittently. The violin-like synths make “Helena Beat” a more well-rounded FTP song than most of the album. The point at 2:54 where the song breaks from the chorus, displays an almost tribal-like sound that leads to a great acapella chorus that once again drops so heavily into the groovy beats of “Helena Beat”. The reverberations from Foster and the Chorus during the last moments of the song underscore the background synths that keep the listening holding on tight before being blown away by Torches’ 1st track. Perhaps not as lasting or as catchy as other songs in their album, “Helena Beat” and Foster the People make the Montana Capital proud with this understated, yet powerful anthem.

Pumped Up Kicks-A-
The song that really put Foster the People on the map and in indie fans hearts never gets old. The video on YouTube surpassed 50,000,000 views in under 6 months. The song features the most electric guitar and bass guitar on the album with the bass guitar picking throughout the song. When writing the song, Foster, “Was trying to get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid. It’s a song the hipsters are going to want to dance to.” Little did he know his first breakthrough song would soon go on to reach #3 on the Billboard 100 charts, stay there for 8 weeks, and later be nominated for a Grammy. Little did Foster know that his song about a kid with a gun would go on to define his album; the dynamic chorus, the electro synths, the up-beat bass and especially the whistling at the end of the song really makes ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ a sleeper hit that we will be remembering for years.

Call It What You Want-A-
The 3rd track on Foster’s debut album doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. After an acapella-esque, bass and symbol introduction, “What You Want”, falls into an indie dance-pop beat that along with a reoccurring piano keep listeners moving and grooving. Foster and Epworth’s lyrics give off the feeling of a renegade on the run, perhaps a fugitive or a degenerate from society that doesn’t care what people say as long as he likes what he does. The airy and distant vocals in the song are just enough to gracefully pull together the piano and drum kits. Especially great about this song is the up-tempo piano which combines well with the synth and bass. The point at 2:35 where the song loses its bass and goes into an omniscient chorus, gives ‘Call It What You Want’ a wide open and slow-motion feeling that we have come to expect from many of Foster’s songs. As the song’s piano ensues, the song slows down to a trance right before the powerful synth bass drops again, leaving the listener’s head bobbing and heart throbbing. Call this song what you want, but I believe with Foster the People’s electro-piano hit, they had nothing to lose, but everything to gain, as they proved their place in Alternative and Indie history.

Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)-B+
When I listen to this song, one definitive word comes to mind; fun. ‘Don’t Stop’ is so much fun to listen to, its whistling, it’s weird sounding baby noises, the background guitar, its largely repetitive ‘Don’t Stop’ lyrics and especially the chorus. The point at 1:50 where the chorus breaks left me breathless more so than any of the songs on Torches. If you are a runner or are training for a weight lifting competition, this song is perfect for you.  And although this song can be incredibly dull and repetitive after a couple of listens, it is still an uplifting hit time and time again. Maybe if this up-beat tune floats your boat, you’ll be singing ‘Don’t Stop’ every time someone plays it on the radio.

Waste-B
Perhaps as not as catchy nor as instrumentally diverse as some of Foster the People’s other songs, Waste has some great choruses that contribute to an overall great song. The use of a bell and piano sound great united with Foster and the gang. The ending of the song definitely delivers the most punch as the ‘I really just want to be with you’ lyrics are stated. Waste deserves a B because it’s solid and consistent as compared to the other more up-tempo FTP songs.

I Would Do Anything for You-A+
One of the most underrated tracks from Torches, Foster the People delivers an electro-piano dance ballad that, when listen to correctly, gives the listener a cheerful, longing feeling that resonates even after ‘I I Would Do Anything for You’ ends. The track starts off to what seems like a lonesome harmonica and underlying beats that build to the eventual chorus and beautifully sung lyrics. The chorus performs splendidly as the synth beats and piano delight the listener with body-swaying melodies. The piano by Foster is expertly orchestrated in between changes. Cubbie Fink and Mark Pontius coalesce flawlessly during the chorus and really make this song such a sleeper hit and perhaps one of the best tracks on the album.

Houdini-B+/A-
If the shackles were on Foster the People’s legs, they surely blew them off with their 7th and latest track from Torches. The dance synth during ‘Houdini’ is absolutely electric. Partially to do for their Grammy-Nominated Music Video. The song features some great clapping and piano during Foster’s solo, but then drops into electric dance synths that lifts Torches into another stratosphere of Indie Pop. The chorus rising “ohhhh, ohhh” profoundly prelude the songs main synth melodies and piano harmony. Foster the People better not disappear, thus song is just too catchy to lose. Surprisingly the song didn’t catch as much fire as song other dance-pop songs, as FTP’s music video has some great and easily imitated choreography. In summation, Houdini has some exciting twists and turns, don’t lose it from behind your ear, it may perform a vanishing act.

Life on the Nickel-C
Although I do strongly disagree when people say Foster the People’s song all sound the same, I have to agree with people when they say this song may not have it. The beginning and synth throughout sound a bit random and weird, but the chorus really defines this song as compared to Foster’s solo performance. The song first listen is definitely strange to say the least, but the piano and xylophone surely show that even if Foster the People has a song that doesn’t quite match up to their other hits, that at least it is a quality hit and not a total bust.

Miss You-A-
One of the less heard of songs on Foster’s album, ‘Miss You’ has exclusively Mark Foster and exclusively organ and synths, but has much fire power, if not more fire power than Foster the People’s other hits and should be commended. Foster’s range in ‘Miss You’ is absolutely unbelievable, the ‘I really miss you miss you’ lyrics alone take insanely high and healthy vocal chords. Although the repetitive synths may seem boring and dull at first, Foster’s vocals really pull them off. As usually songs with the words ‘Miss You’ are, Foster the People’s version is as good as they get. Even after a week of not listening to this song, I’ll admit Mark Foster, I’ll really Miss You Miss You.

Warrant-C+
The beginning of the song is quite mesmerizing and awesome to say the least as it transitions into what seems to be more rock than dance pop. The chorus is great and well sung, the background synths are somewhat questionable but nevertheless still great. As usual the piano and Foster lyrics are well orchestrated, although I can’t help but thinking that ‘Warrant’ is somehow missing something, the usual slow motion and catchy break in Foster’s songs just isn’t there. As the song transitions at 3:45, it doesn’t seem Foster-ly enough to make me really catch onto this song. Still deserving of an average grade, this song could have used a little bit more variations than it had, but still a solid showing.

Overall Album Grade-Legendary

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Foster the People Torches Album Review