Power pop-rock trio Foster The People are back today, three years after their surprise hit debut Torches, with second outing Supermodel. As many artists can attest to, crafting the perfect sophomore album is a dicey prospect, given that one must please their original, core group of fans while still demonstrating at least a modicum of creative growth.
So how did Mark Foster and his two cohorts fare with their new, Mark Epworth-co-produced record? Online critics seem to feel the album is a mixed bag — one that serves up a few flashes of musical goodness, while ultimately slumping under it’s own heavy themes. Head below for our roundup of reviews, then let us know your own thoughts on FTP’s latest record.
:: Newsday says you shouldn’t expect a repeat of the band’s debut LP: “Let’s save everyone a lot of trouble. If you’re looking for “Pumped Up Kicks 2: The Sequel” on Foster the People’s new album, Supermodel (Columbia), it’s not there. There’s nothing even close. That’s not a failure on Foster the People’s part, just their statement of purpose. The peppiness of “Pumped Up Kicks,” which was arguably the song of the summer of 2011, camouflaged the tale of a schoolkid getting ready for a murderous rampage. On “Supermodel,” they sound more like Vampire Weekend than that band that had everyone singing about outrunning bullets.”
:: USA Today notes, “Rather than letting “Pumped Up Kicks” success straitjacket him, Foster The People’s Mark Foster uses it as license to pursue his wildest instincts. Supermodel is global-minded pop unspooled to ambition’s farthest edges.”
:: Rolling Stone isn’t too impressed: “Highlights like ‘Best Friend’ and ‘Are You What You Want to Be’, meanwhile, could have anchored an album that looked back to the mid-Eighties moment when stiff, white singers toyed with black pop (think David Bowie’s Let’s Dance or Talking Heads’ Naked). Instead, we get a boatload of halfhearted na-na-na-na-na-nas and doo-doodoo-doodoodoos. The default mode here is a soupy power mumble: Passion Pit without the passion, Imagine Dragons without imagination.”
:: New York Daily News finds some merit in the album: “The band’s songs are as dense to listen to as they are to contemplate. Going beyond the band’s hit debut, Torches, Supermodel lards the sound with more instruments, extra vocal chorales and enough echo to make Phil Spector cry uncle. It’s a cramped sound, embodying the confused notions that crowd the characters’ minds. Luckily, some fairly catchy melodies lie amid the muck. The tunes have a breadth that’s rare, and also draw on more genres than the band’s debut.”
:: Cleveland’s Plain Dealer feels the album’s theme is way too heavy: “By the time you get to Oasis-like slow burner ‘Nevermind’, a song about struggling to find what you’re looking for, you find yourself hoping for a lighter mood. At times, your prayers will be answered. ‘Pseudologia Fantastica’ is a solid song that mixes elements of psychedelic rock with vocals similar to Passion Pit. Then there’s the stand out ‘Best Friend’, a new wave dance tune that may be about something negative, but who cares since it sounds like so much fun. Those moments are too few and far between.”
:: Red Eye Chicago sums up the album with this: “While listening to Supermodel, Foster the People’s overdue follow-up to the California band’s debut, Torches, it’s difficult not to think of the formula behind “Kicks.” Supermodel contains even more seriousness than Torches but still has enough rollicking hooks to obscure much of the content, which frontman Mark Foster has said deals with with ‘the ugly side of capitalism’. Maybe hiding that commentary is a plus, since, much of it is shallow or nonsensical…”
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.