In the title of the lead single from Foster The People’s sophomore album, ‘Coming of Age’, the group have defined this point of their career sublimely. The group’s debut album was blown into the stratosphere by the poppy perfection that was ‘Pumped Up Kicks’. On closer inspection, ‘Torches’ was certainly filled with catchy upbeat pop-rock tracks but lacked depth and variety. ‘Supermodel’, as with most second albums, comes with a weight of expectation, not the least of which is that the group will have come of age somewhat and that their sound will change grown.
Foster The People: Supermodel
The challenges don’t end there though and were anything but insignificant: to measure up to their mammoth breakout single; to remain relevant in a musical world that had moved significantly since their debut; and to prove they had more than just one string in their bow. With such weighty expectations, it’s a testament to the group’s maturity that they’ve been able to pull together such a mature album. An album that has taken stock of their strengths but which has also managed to address some of the areas that were exposed as weaknesses on their 2011 debut.
The lads certainly haven’t forgotten how to write catchy pop songs, with the irresistible ‘Are You What You Want To Be?’ and ‘The Truth’ getting the beat going (even if lyrically they’re a bit nonsensical). Things are calmed down quite a bit on ‘Fire & Stone’ and ‘Goats In Trees’ where they manage to channel Angus Stone’s relaxed style and Pete Doherty’s ‘Wastelands’-era carnival pop respectively.
There are a few unusual additions to the album which don’t fit entirely with the album’s plan. ‘The Angelic Welcome of Mr Jones’ is a thirty second intermission of choral ‘aahs’ that serves to distract in the midst of an otherwise straightforward album.. The try-hard psychedelia of ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’ is unnecessarily long and jars the album’s developing flow.
The album hits its greatest highs when lead singer Mark Foster does the same. Firstly on lead single ‘Coming of Age’, a classic rock ‘n’ roller that can’t help but get stuck in your head. But most clearly on ‘Best Friend’, a track that stands alone as the most interesting element on an album of enjoyable jaunty pop. With some funky guitar, disco backing and a liberal dose of pop harmony added in, the perfect base was created for Mark Foster to lay his most powerful vocals yet over.
It’s interesting that the area Foster The People have come the furthest in is their slow ballads. Some of the most touching beautiful moments on Supermodel are the everyman moments of ballads like ‘Fire Escape’, which calls into question even more, the overblown psychedelia of ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’. They’d already shown their maturity and how they’d grown without needing to spread their wings into totally new genres. That minor gripe aside, Foster The People have crafted an album about ordinary life akin to Blur’s early work. A mature balance of ballads, rockers and dance tunes, ‘Supermodel’ is a remarkably strong follow up album that defies anyone to question Foster The People’s credentials as a genuine contender. You’d better sit up and take notice.