Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Foster The People: Torches

      Well then, Foster The People. Brought to my attention by good friend Matty, (thanks extended his way), this Los Angeles trio aren't actually that recent, having played way back in 2009. The bulk of their releases however, as well as their rise to relative fame, have occurred this year, with 'Torches' being the band's debut studio album after the self-titled January EP. Their sound harks back in many ways to 1960's psychedelia, a move pioneered by band Echo and the Bunnymen, with pop elements creeping into the music here and there, highlighted with an electronic shine and fun dance sensibility. The vocals, upon first listen sound surprisingly feminine, a shock provoked by the fact this is an all-male group. This soon melts though, into the soothing ten track mess of this lp.
     I say mess, because 'Torches' isn't the most consistent album around, which is really one of my main complaints. The songs are pretty hit and miss as to whether they work at all actually, which is due in part to the fairly repetitive lyricism and unoriginality that creeps about under the bed of the record. By that, I mean that some may not be able to hear the fairly noticeable MGMT influence, but it is there. I hear blatant Animal Collective influences here as well, but as a fan of that group, I am probably biased against Foster the People's more accessible reimagining of that fairly unique sound. Having said all this, the mess is, when it works, an incredibly soothing and summery release from the stress of school and the headache of exams, an attribute to the record that's actually quietly enjoyable.
     The opener is deceivingly brilliant though. With it's notes building in pitch atop a catchy rhythmic wave, 'Helena Beat' is a chilled out picnic, encompassing all the frivolity of summer, with any worries and problems drifting away with the warm breeze. The next track and indeed the first single dropped from the album is another great one, with it's reverb heavy vocals making 'Pumped Up Kicks' another relaxing four minutes. After 'Call It What You Want' with it's groovy melody and "ooh, ooh ooh"s however, things kind of go downhill. 'Don't Stop'? It's unoriginal melody and overall construction are cracked panes in the stained glass window of this track. The vocals and little details to the sound are nice, but don't quite manage to carry the afore-mentioned problems. 'Waste' as well. The lyrics are good, but that obvious MGMT influence runs like a stain down the wall. The influence itself isn't bad, but the fact that it overpowers the music in a glaringly obvious manner, is.
     This is going to sound really bad now, but here we go. 'Houdini'. The MGMT influence is even more prominent here, but it might just be my favourite track. I know, with everything in the last paragraph, how can he like this song? Well, it's probably more the varied instrumentation and vocals that make it my favourite, with these elements earning the right in a way to be that little bit more unoriginal than others. 'Life On The Nickel's lyrics stand out as pretty nice, with 'Miss You's talk of letting go another stand-out three and a half minutes from this collection of forty. The album ends with a five minute stonker, 'Warrant', whose angelic start sooths as much as it's louder finish pumps.  And so, I think that's it. Overall, this isn't a bad album by far, but it's inconsistencies and unoriginality in parts lessens the collective feeling of the record as a whole. I would have prefered Foster the People, with their great vocals and ear for a good pop tune to merely craft a sound quieter in it's influences. Instead of wearing them on their sleeves, perhaps the list of influences should have been kept out of the limelight, instead of in it, which for the most part, it was. Like 'Call It What You Want' says though, "who cares?" This is a care-free record, so stop caring and take life a little less seriously! It's fun while it lasts.