Mark Foster was a kid from Ohio who moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of a career in the music industry. Success was not immediate. Foster worked odd jobs by day and frequented the party scenes of Hollywood by night. After a few years of failing to make any connections in the city and dealing with a nasty drug habit, Foster started writing commercial jingles for Mophonics Studio, where he would go on to write the song that had everyone in America singing about shooting up kids with better shoes than you: “Pumped Up Kicks.” Hence, Foster the People was born, and the rest is history.
In 2011, indie-pop bops were king for the summer. Bands like MGMT, Young the Giant, and Phoenix paved the way for a new trend of guitar-driven earworms I remember being popular amongst high school girls. Enter, Foster the People’s first album, “Torches.” “Pumped Up Kicks,” the debut single, stayed at number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks straight, and all over the country, we sang along to a song about homicidal youth shooting up kids with cool shoes. “Torches” was full of catchy, accessible tunes that showcased bandleader Mark Foster’s talent for songwriting. After the lackluster 2014 release, “Supermodel,” the band is back with a new album: “Sacred Hearts Club.”
“Sacred Hearts Club” is true to the genre of indie-pop in its combined efforts to evoke a decidedly nostalgic sound and one that appeals to the trends of the time. There is a groovy, sexy feel to the album, and it reminds me of the 1975’s latest release “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It.” At least, in terms of the style, I think they were going for.
Now, what was EDM in 2011 is now hip hop, but the rap-influenced tracks on this album feel ingenuine. “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy” is probably the most embarrassing, with lyrics that reference Eric Garner’s murder by police in 2014 over upbeat mock-trap music – with no reverence or real purpose. It feels like an attempt to shock or give the band an edge, maybe, but it really just makes these white boys look really racist and exploitative. If you can get past this weird, tasteless attempt at gentrifying hip hop music, here are some songs that are more listenable from the release.
While Foster the People’s attempts to dip into a new genre fail, they succeed more with songs that showcase their original falsetto vocals and bright guitar grooves. “I Love My Friends” is a good track to start with if you loved “Torches.” I wasn’t impressed with the first single, “Doing It for the Money,” which is drowned out with misplaced, heavy 808s. That being said, the chorus is easy to get stuck in your head, and dance-able, if that is your thing.
Foster the People is the most effective on “Sacred Hearts Club” when they stick to spoon-feeding listeners reminiscence for an older sound. The Beach Boy’s influence in songs like “Static Space Lover” and “Time to Get Closer” are the highlights of the album, with distinctively dreamy-layered vocals and sunny drumbeats. “Lotus Eater” shines too, with a more ‘gritty’ guitar sound and dancey claps.
I am doubtful “Sacred Hearts Club” will see the commercial success of “Torches,” and maybe that is okay. The heyday of indie pop’s success has been marked in the past few years by a band’s ability to adapt and incorporate other popular genres – and Foster the People falls short of that goal today. We are all suckers for nostalgia, though, and if you are looking to capture a little of the magic of the summer of 2011, you will find a small taste of that excitement you felt when Foster the People was in its prime.