Apr 23, 2012

Album Review: Foster The People "Torches"

Hailing from sunny Los Angeles, California, Foster the People is an "Indie" pop... rock... electronica... dance band. Maybe with the buzzword "alternative" thrown in, because hey, everyone's alternative these days. Let's just say they're electropop, cuz that has a ring to it. Foster the People unleashed their debut album, Torches May 23, 2011, but it was preceded by the viral success of the album's first single, "Pumped Up Kicks". If you purchase the album through iTunes, you get a bonus track titled "Broken Jaw", but if you purchase the album through Best Buy, you get bonus tracks: "Love" and "Chin Music for the Unsuspecting Hero". But I'll stick to the basics and just review the tracks everyone can enjoy regardless of location.

1) "Helena Beat" - Crazy electronica opening gives you a pretty direct introduction to who Foster The People are, and what Torches is going to be like. The vocals take a risk by being so high pitched, which not everyone is going to like in just any context, but it meshes so well with the infectious dance beat and gives it an infectious pop sound. It's no surprise this track was the second single off the album, because even without paying attention to the lyrics, which are really zany yet relatable, you can enjoy this song just from the overall sound. Five stars.

2) "Pumped Up Kicks" - Everyone's probably heard this song a million times by now and has their own opinion on it, but I say it got justly overplayed by the radio. In a time of desolate music scene, "Pumped Up Kicks" brought a brief salvation to the radio, and is still listenable a year later. 5/5.

3) "Call It What You Want" - Weary on the very 80's dance opening, but once the lyrics kick in the whole song comes together and becomes impossible to turn off. It's gonna get you if you turn it on. You''re gonna do the Napoleon Dynamite dance from the end of the movie. By far, the most impressive opening to an album I've heard in a long time. For the third time in a row on this album, 5/5.

4) "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)" - A much slower, but still INCREDIBLY catchy and repeatable track. Great for driving music, great for a soundtrack. Just yes. Unbelievable hot streak for Torches; 5/5.

5) "Waste" - A really good track, but doesn't live up to the previous four hits. I think it's the reggae vibe it gives off in the verses clashing with the energetic and catchy chorus. A fun song, no doubt, and probably a blast to hear live but uneven. 4/5.

6) "I Would Do Anything for You" - I like harmonicas, and I like when a band breaks up an upbeat flow with a slower, mellow song, but this one was just experimental, which doesn't tickle my fancy. Random guitar riffs, clashing vibe between chorus and verse, and just really nothing working for me. It's not a grating high pitched squeal from start to finish, so I won't completely destroy this song, but it's something I would skip when it plays on my album listening. 2/5, but hey, Torches had a heck of a hot streak there for a while.

7) "Houdini" - And just like that, things are already picking back up from the middle of the album pitfall! Another song that doesn't hold up to the first four tracks of the album, but a really strong rebound from "I Would Do Anything for You". Not a song I would seek out to listen to having heard it, but not a song I would skip if it came on. The music works and all of the instruments have wonderful chemistry, but I think the vocals are missing that "It Factor" in this track. 4/5.

8) "Life On A Nickel" - This one hurts me, because it's so close to being perfect but misses the mark by just a little bit. The beat, the verses, the music are all outstanding. They've got the "It Factor", the dropped beat in the right place, great timing, they've got it all! But they miss the mark on one thing - the chorus. Oh man, does this chorus ever bother me. Repetitive without being catchy, indecipherable even after looking up the lyrics, and really just drags the song down. Could have been the first 5/5 back from the slump that was "I Would Do Anything For You", but instead I can only give it 4/5.

9) "Miss You" - This song is just the opposite of "Life on a Nickel", which hurts the song even more. Rather than the vocals being off in this song at any point (because they're picture-perfect here) the music is terrible. Just awful. I love the chorus both because of the beautiful vocals and lyrics, but also because they almost completely drop out all music in the background. Once you're back to the verses, it's just generic club house techno. No thank you. A sadly skippable 3/5.

10) "Warrant" - While this track doesn't put a bad taste in my mouth to close off the album, it still doesn't live up to the incredibly high standard set by the top four tracks. I think this song probably should have opened the album, because it's not bad, but nothing remarkable either. Kind felt like a classic rock song like Journey or The Eagles. Unfortunately, a skippable 3/5.


My Highlights:
"Helena Beat", "Pumped Up Kicks", "Call It What You Want", and "Don't Stop (Color On The Walls)"

Overall Rating:
Averaging the ratings together, Torches gets an easy 4/5, but given that this is the band's debut album, this is an impressive way to break out of the gate! I'd love to give the album a ton of super-duper big-overall-picture reviewer brownie points to bump this score up, but the track placement hindered the album as a whole a little. Things started out at their peak and just kind of dwindled down from there. BUT! They never dwindled too far down, or for very long. The amount of ridiculously awesome songs on this album in ratio of how many songs total there are is very high. So, for the overall rating I give Torches:

4.25/5!

image from Amazon

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