Welcome to summertime when big beats, whistling hooks, synthesized rhythms, and chanting choruses rule the airwaves. Foster the People has already made its bid for hit song of the summer of 2011 with the infectious single “Pumped Up Kicks.” Whether the dancing crowds recognize the dark side of the song – the lyrics deal with a homicidal teen – is hard to tell. When a song has that kind of “get-to-your-feet-and-shake-it” production the lyrics can be ignored.
That summarizes the songs on Torches, the debut release from the Los Angeles based trio Foster the People. The lyrics lean toward the perspective of the alienated outsider and his struggle for survival. However, that message is contrasted by the upbeat melodies and dance heavy production of the songs. Credit Foster the People’s founder, songwriter, and singer, Mark Foster for the emotional juggling act. Originally from Cleveland, Foster moved to Los Angeles at the behest of his father who encouraged his son music career. Teaming up with bassist Cubbie Fink and drummer Mark Pontius, Foster founded the band in the fall of 2009 and began working out songs that created visceral reactions while discreetly dealing with the realities of life’s mood swings. After releasing an EP that featured “Pumped Up Kicks” it was time to head into the studio for a full-length release.
Torches features a menagerie of producers, including Foster. Greg Kurstin, known for his work with Action Figure Party, a band that mixed jazz and dance elements, and as half the duo The Bird and the Bee, produces and plays on four tracks. Paul Epworth whose pedigree includes working with Adele, Cee Lo Green, and Florence and The Machine contributes three tracks, while Rich Costey – think Franz Ferdinand, Nine Inch Nails, and Fiona Apple – kicks in two tracks. With this kind of help how can a band go wrong? It is interesting to note that the hit single, “Pumped Up Kicks,” is solely produced by Foster. Clearly this kid has skills and he’s not afraid to use them.
In summary, if you’re looking for an album to pump up at the pool party you can’t go wrong with this one. Those looking to dance will and those looking to mope can – just pay close attention to the lyrics if you can stay focused. Mope dancing anyone???