Album Review Forum: Foster The People – ‘Supermodel’

In typical Rukkus fashion, we’ve done a blind-survey of Foster The People’s sophomore record, Supermodel. That’s right, three different writers will share their opinion on the album.

Does it live up to their first? Are they going to be sound-tracking the spring again? Did you remember to wear pants today? Two-thirds of these questions will be answered! Find out which.

Foster The People – Supermodel Album Review

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Reviewer #1: Nicolas White

For most, Foster The People conjure memories of the insanely catchy, overplayed track, “Pumped Up Kicks.” At some point a few years back, as long as the weather was warm and the sun was out, this song could be heard playing somewhere. It was the equivalent of “Blurred Lines” without the moral hangover afterwards.

Though other songs from their debut album (“Helena Beat” comes to mind) achieved success, this band’s young career will undoubtedly be defined beneath the shadow of that mega-hit. Is it unfair? Perhaps. But it’s human nature to compare the present to the past. So that’s where I’ll start.

In 2011, this band sound-tracked a week of my summer. It was a long road trip headed south (8 hours, to be exact). As the bright sun flooded through the car windows, everything grew stale and old, including the music that was playing; even driving classics like The Allman Brothers and Zeppelin sounded dull by the 4th hour. As I lazily flipped through the modest stack of CDs available (remember those?), I came across Torches and slipped the hot disc into the console.

Instantly, the infectious hooks set-in. It was the sound of a good time; the musical equivalent of day-drinking in the August sun. Sure, you could sit down and detract from the album’s creative merits, but then you’d be missing the point. Torches was simple; it was fun.

In 2014, though, Supermodel finds Foster The People in a much different place… or, rather, in between two places — enjoyable pop music and rock artistry. The new record is more reserved than its predecessor, and purposely so. While they do touch on the highly-enjoyable pop-rock of their debut on tracks like “Best Friend” and “Coming of Age,” they don’t fully “go for it.” It’s as though the pressure of replicating “Pumped Up Kicks” mixed in with the inevitable critic snobbery that would come if they made a clone of it.

As a result, Supermodel lacks much of an identity. When Foster The People try to get more “creatively adventurous,” it only amounts to out-of-place instrumental interludes like “The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones,” a 33 second track that feels like it was tacked-on to make this play more like an album, rather than a collection of songs. Unfortunately, Supermodel often sounds like the latter. Sure, it’s extremely well-produced and clean, but that doesn’t necessarily help its cause.

Keep in mind, this is a band on the same label as MGMT (Sony Music’s Columbia), a band who shares many similarities with Foster: indie darlings by way of a major label with a breakout hit. Regardless of how it sounds, this is a high-stakes record; Foster The People needed to live-up to all that attention they received.

As a result, their sophomore lacks the surefire direction of Torches, even if it was based in naivete. Don’t get me wrong, Supermodel has plenty of enjoyable moments, but as a whole? Chalk this one up to a band forced to grow-up too fast.

Verdict: Torches was just plain fun. Supermodel… isn’t.

Reviewer #2: Adam Lalama

All my life I’ve had the pessimistic habit of expecting the worse. Whether it is related to school, relationships, or just a regular every day event, I constantly prepare myself for an unwanted outcome. So it should come as no surprise that I followed a similar procedure upon learning about Foster the People’s sophomore album Supermodel.

Though I expected the bands follow-up to Torches (an album that impressed the world with catchy dance-pop songs like “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Houdini”) to fall drastically short, I am happy to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, Supermodel sees Mark Foster and his comrades return with much of the same drum and bass heavy dance-pop sounds that won the world over the first time around.

Songs like “Are You What You Want To Be” and “Ask Yourself” are harmonious gems consisting of underlying themes of self-reflection and inner revision, while “Best Friend” sees the band hitting their stride perfectly with its infectiously catchy bass line, funky guitar licks, and knee-jerking percussion that ultimately channels that of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”.

What ultimately separates Supermodel from its predecessor, however, is the bands new-found ability to write low-key, melodramatic ballads. This could not be more evident than on the albums fourth track “Nevermind”. The song could easily be transformed into a 90’s grunge anthem with its unique chord progression and grandiose vibes. High-pitched background singers harmonize the mantra “Never mind what you’re looking for, you’re gonna’ find what you’re looking for” overtop the soft plucking of acoustic guitar resulting in an eerily beautiful and spiritual track that is perhaps my favorite on the album.

Very seldom does an album cause one to dance erratically while simultaneously considering the meaning of their existence (in fact, such a combination of thought and movement is somewhat of a contradiction in itself). However, Supermodel is an album defined by extreme diversity. At any given time one’s upbeat, fun-loving attitude will transform into one of deep thought and emotion – and by providing listeners with such a unique listening experience, Foster the People prove to the world that the term “sophomore slump” is not in their vocabulary.

Verdict: “Sophomore slump?” I think not.

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Reviewer #3: Jason Schellhardt

Foster the People are something of an anomaly in pop music. The band found huge commercial success with 2011’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” a nice little ditty about a school shooting. On Supermodel, the band seems to have taken the reaction to that song and run with it. To say the tone of this album is dark would be an understatement. What would be a solid power-pop album full of bright melodies and uber-marketable tunes is often bogged down by Mark Foster’s lyrical pity party. Near the middle of the album, “Best Friend” provides a glimmer of hope. This brand of dancey indie-pop banger is exactly what Foster the People should be doing. Unfortunately, it is just a brief recess from the otherwise downtrodden collection of tracks that feel phoned in at times.

Verdict: A contradiction of sad lyrics and power-pop. Why?


Forum dismissed. May ye go in peace. Let us know what you think! Will Foster The People’s second record catch-on with its (in the words of Adam Lalama) “harmonious gems?” Or, will it flounder because it’s “phoned-in” and boring, according to those other two sad bastards. Time only knows.

Article by Nicolas White, Adam Lalama, Jason Schellhardt

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