Release Date: Jul 21, 2017
Record label: Columbia
Neon-toned and deliciously funky, Foster the People's third studio album, 2017's Sacred Hearts Club, finds the group eschewing its pleasant indie pop sound in favor of an album of lightly experimental, fluorescent-lit, groove-based tracks. Produced by lead singer/songwriter Mark Foster and keyboardist Isom Innis, along with Josh Abraham, Lars Stalfors, and Oligee, the album is the Los Angeles band's biggest departure yet from the amiable, youthful vibe of 2011's Torches. These are kinetic, hip-hop-inflected tracks rife with '80s-style synths, finger-snapping basslines, skittering dance beats, and club-ready, falsetto-tinged hooks.
Indie-pop outfit Foster the People's third record, Sacred Hearts Club, is a mesmerizing journey that expounds on the ideas initially laid out on 2011's Torches. It takes a step forward from the disappointingly bland Supermodel from 2014 by incorporating new sounds to give a sense of invigorating evolution, instead of sputtering out like a jaded band weary from the musical grind. Instrumentally speaking, Sacred Hearts Club relies heavily on its rhythmic components such as trap beats and and a groove-focused impetus, previously unexplored territory for the band.
I imagine, in this vacuum where critics appraise albums, that we often fail to predict what will happen when the music leaks into the wild. Like, could the first reviewer who caught wind of 'Uptown Funk' have possibly foreseen its wildfire spread, so rampant that professional cover bands STILL whip it out at weddings two years on? Could the first ears who melted for Rihanna's 'Work' have possibly heard the squeals of delight whenever the DJ bumps that vibe on the dance floor? The more stodgy writers might tell you that public opinion should hold no sway over the battleground that forms between their headphones, but I'm not so sure anymore. Music doesn't happen in a vacuum.
The unhurried lope of "Pumped Up Kicks" ran counter to Mark Foster's rapid ascent. After graduating high school in northern Ohio, he moved to Los Angeles, eventually landing a job with the commercial-music concern Mophonics. It was in Mophonics' studio that Foster tracked "Pumped Up Kicks." Though he had songwriting partners in drummer Mark Pontius and former bassist Cubbie Fink, "Kicks" was Foster's work alone: the version that hit No.
Industry catapult "Pumped Up Kicks" was a banger enriched in gloriously buoyant indietronica, the band's 2011 debut LP Torches blasting car stereos with its anthemic brand of West Coast indie-pop, whilst flaunting sufficient sonic quirks to satisfy those who perceived themselves slightly cooler. After the mixed reception of a more psych-tinged, guitar-focused sophomore effort, 2014's Supermodel, the pressure was on for a third record to either recapture Torches make-you-dance mentality, or to opt for a complete sonic rebrand. Unfortunately, though, such attempts fall flat from a band who seem to be enduring a painful decline into an inescapable identity crisis; Sacred Hearts Club is a hotchpotch of tracks which don't appear to work together as a collective at all.