Foster The People – Torches (Startime International)

According to legend, the track Pumped up Kicks went viral in 2010 after Californian band Foster the People emailed the song to a handful of friends. An online feeding frenzy followed, and the group has been in hot demand ever since. Their debut album Torches  has a light, poppy vibe that will make you think it’s summer no matter how cold it is outside. But Foster the People is one of those bands that combines cheerful melodies with disturbing lyrics; with themes of fear, loneliness and depression.

Foster the People sound as though they’ve sprung from the loins of MGMT, Passion Pit and Hot Chip, but with an audacious sensibility befitting a young band that’s had such a dream run. Frontman Mark Foster composes on piano and the combination of urgent keys, his falsetto vocals, disco beats, dance sounds, whistling, 60s “whee-oo-oohs” and modern r’n’b moments are surprising, engaging and infectious.

Pumped up Kicks, about teenage depression, features a character called Robert who could well be Robert A. Hawkins, the nineteen year old who killed nine people in the Nebraska Westroads Mall shooting. Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) harks back to The Dandy Warhols and seems to be about Foster enjoying his fame. He counters this with Houdini, a track about the pressures of the spotlight that morphs into an anthem about musical ability, and Waste, which could be a love song to a depressed girlfriend.

This is a layered and competent first album mostly deserving of the media buzz. It’ll be interesting to see where Foster The People go next, and if they can sustain the hype. The song Call it What You Want features the line “what I’ve got can’t be bought so you can just call it what you want”. Arrogant, brooding and gifted are three words that spring to mind.

Kathryn van Beek

Click here to listen to Helena Beat from Torches