When Foster the People’s debut album Torches came out in 2011, it was primed to be a smashing success from the start.
Even before its release, the ubiquitous single “Pumped Up Kicks” earned the Los Angeles-based band a ton of buzz, and as such, the full-length record debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200.
While their follow-up Supermodel, due out March 18, definitely holds a few of the infectious electro-pop jams the band offered on Torches, fans shouldn’t expect Pumped Up Kicks 2: Electric Boogaloo.
In fact, Supermodel is an interesting look at frontman Mark Foster’s maturation as a songwriter, marking a change from a singular producer to someone penning songs for a live band.
One of the main ways that change manifested itself is how the album relies more on guitars and percussion and less on electronic elements.
Acoustic guitars are featured on the plaintive “Fire Escape,” while the confident noodling on “Ask Yourself” or “Coming of Age” demonstrates that the guys are ready to plug in and jam, as well. In addition, there is an undeniable West African influence to the rhythm of album opener “Are You What You Want to Be?”
Other gems include the surprising “Best Friend,” which is as disco as this group has ever been. The mix of funk-ified guitars, Cubbie Fink’s grooving bass, hand claps and a slide whistle(?!?) will surely pack dance floors.
And kudos to Foster for exploring his vocal range on tracks like “The Truth” and “Goats in Trees,” where he ditches his trademark falsetto for a much lower register.
Thematically, Supermodel touches on several thoughtful issues. Just look at the title and album cover. Conceived by Foster, the artwork features a slew of paparazzi snapping away at a model who is vomiting the words of a poem the singer wrote about voyeurism and consumption.
The band was so struck by the vision that they enlisted Dutch-born, L.A.-based artist Young & Sick to paint a giant mural of the cover art on the side of a building in downtown Los Angeles.
“For me, this album is about looking at our culture and about what we prioritize as a culture and some of the things that, I think, fuel us right now and how we define beauty as a culture,” Foster told Time. “I think we’re the most self-centered culture, maybe in history. With Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, everybody has a platform for them to say, ‘Look at me!’ We’re living in a model culture.”
The heavy sentiments don’t end with the album art.
“A Beginners Guide to Destroying the Moon” is a look at the pitfalls of capitalism, setting an angry tone that matches well with its rumbling bottom end. “Ask Yourself” has Foster wondering, “Is this the life that you’re waiting for / Are you hoping that you’d be where you want with a little more?”
And the trippy “Pseudologia Fantastica” is a narrative about a soldier’s tumultuous return home to their family due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s clear that Foster the People wanted to be bold in creating Supermodel. In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, Foster noted that he was excited to see the response, good or bad, to what he believes is “a more polarizing record” for the band.
Fortunately for Foster the People, their adventurous spirit helped produce an exceptional album, one that shows the band taking a step forward in their fully-pumped kicks.
Pre-order a copy of Supermodel here.