Foster the People has taken a big risk with Supermodel. The majority of the tracks on the album fight desperately to shift away from the dance-worthy beats and pop-fuelled synths that were present in Torches. However, not all of them succeed.
Supermodel is described by the band as a concept album, which means that the songs are all connected to form a story, or they all concern a certain topic. The themes of the album revolve around a negative attitude towards capitalism, materialism and pop culture, reflective of lead singer Mark Foster’s views. The band also went to a lot of trouble to promote the album, releasing a documentary series (also called Supermodel) and having a 40 metre tall mural painted on a wall in Los Angeles.
Fans who expect this album to be a second Torches will be deeply disappointed. Lyrically the band still explores very dark themes, which are still veiled by carefree melodies, but Supermodel’s sound is more raw and natural than that of Torches.
The choice of melodies on the album makes listeners far more aware of its serious subject matter, with only one track – “Best friend” – sounding like the Foster the People that audiences have come to recognise. Many different genres are combined to make Supermodel the melting pot of musical exploration that band has dubbed “indietronica”. A variety of different instruments, such as harpsichord and vibraphone, are used and inspiration was drawn from an assortment of cultures.
The album’s opening track “Are you what you want to be?” has a Vampire Weekend sound to it, whereas closing track “Fire escape” has a more acoustic, honest feel reminiscent of Elliot Smith. Tracks like “Goats in trees” with a slow pace that makes it stand out like a sore thumb from the rest of the songs, and “The truth” with an opera-esque chorus, seem out of place on Supermodel. In fact, the entire album could come across as no more than an attempt to escape Torches and its set of radio-ready hits, but it shouldn’t be written off immediately. Their evolved sound will definitely gain them some new fans – but it could cost them some existing ones. If given a proper chance, Supermodel has the potential to grow on Foster the People’s fans, both old and new. A lot of thought went into the production of this album, and even more thought needs to be put into listening to it.