Saturday, September 10, 2011

Foster the People -Torches

 Pumped Up Kicks

Video may have killed the radio star, but radio exposed the indie rock star. For most of 2011, one band has mesmerized me. Back in February a song came on KROQ that just blew me away. During this time I was the editor of the school magazine and missed not having the time to write reviews. I became overwhelmed with my final semester of college and was unable to truly enjoy the stacks of music that I needed and wanted to review.

Then something amazing happened…I graduated college. Before I knew it, my final semester of college ended and I couldn’t be happier. My last final, a political philosophy worth 60% of my grade, was brutal, but nothing nearly as tiring as graduation day. There was one band constantly in my life that kept me motivated throughout, Foster the People. When I learned Foster the People would be playing a free intimate show at Amoeba (in Hollywood) I knew I had to go. It happened to be the same day as my graduation. Luckily for me, my graduation was at 8 a.m. and the concert was that evening around 6 p.m., which meant it was going to be a long day of celebrating.

Seeing my closest friends, meeting one of my favorite actors (Ryan Gosling) and graduating with honors was quite an accomplishment, but the only thing on my mind was seeing Foster the People. Ever since I first heard their song, “Pumped Up Kicks” I knew I wanted to see them and have been discussing them to everyone, almost to the point of annoying some people. For close to three months I waited patiently for their debut album, Torches to arrive in stores. Their eponymous EP Foster the People was the only thing holding me over until the release of their debut album. On the day of their concert, the same day the album came out, I purchased both the vinyl and the CD with my parents literally right after graduation. Even the cashier couldn’t believe I rushed from my graduation just to pick up the album and CD to “celebrate my college graduation.” Later that night I saw Foster the People and they blew my mind.

Unlike most of my fellow college graduates that were having nice relaxing celebratory dinners I was at a concert and that kicked off my night of fun. Even my friends couldn’t believe I went to a concert on our graduation day before hitting up parties, but I told them, “If you heard this band, you know it would be worth it. Besides you only graduate college once and why not see a concert to celebrate that momentous occasion?”

I first heard Foster the People back in late February and after the fourth time I knew I had to learn about this band. So I did what any other normal person does in today’s technology-savvy world I pulled out my cellphone and initiated Shazam on March 22 at 11:50 a.m to discover the song I have fallen in love with was “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. Immediately I drove home and searched for Foster the People albums. Unfortunately, only their EP was currently available and I would have to wait until the end of May before I could fully appreciate their debut album.

Almost every day I found myself either listening to the song on the radio or playing their music video on YouTube. Finally, when May came around I was beyond stoked, especially when I was learned Foster the People would be playing a free show at Amoeba around my last finals. However, like I mentioned above, there was something strange about the date that seemed oddly familiar…it was my graduation day (I realized it two days before). Considering I graduated, met one of my favorite actors at graduation (Ryan Gosling), saw Foster the People in concert and partied hard with all my friends and fellow graduates, May 24th was an amazing day for me and Foster the People was a large reason why.

Foster the People is comprised of lead singer/frontman Mark Foster (vocals, keyboards, piano, synthesizers, percussion and programming), Mark Pontius (drums), and Cubbie Fink (bass). The band currently tours with live musicians Sean Cimino (guitar, keyboard and synthesizer) and Isom Innis (keyboard and piano). Fink, Cimino and Innis provide backing vocals.

Torches kicks off with “Helena Beat,” a song that immediately starts off with an awesome drum beat and beautifully transitions to Foster’s fantastic voice. Immediately listeners are treated with a unique and charismatic lead singer, who is destined for big things. What really sells me on this band is how remarkable and original lead singer Mark Foster sounds. If a lead singer sounds different and “one of a kind” to me then I’m instantly hooked. I feel nowadays most bands have that “generic sound” and they are hard differentiate, but Foster the People need not to worry because once you hear them, you can instantly tell it’s them.

Thus far I have only mentioned “Pumped Up Kicks” three times, but I can’t stress how great this song is and should be 2011’s summer/year’s anthem. Do you remember the first time you felt about Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” and other anthems? That’s probably the best way to describe “Pumped Up Kicks.” Catchy from beginning to end, Foster’s ferocious vocals leave you wanting more with one of the year’s Top Ten Singles of 2011.

After graduation I interviewed at a prestigious entertainment PR firm by five people and was told by one of them that this year’s lineup of Coachella “sucked” and there were no good bands (including recent Grammy Winners Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, Cee Lo Green, rising stars Mumford & Sons, Neon Trees, Foster the People and established acts like Kanye West and Kings of Leon to name a few). After she made that erroneous and dubious comment I spoke up, even though it might cost me the position. Sure enough after I started naming almost 35 of the 46 artists I wanted to see I left the five people in my interview speechless. I further elaborated what Coachella had become and the individual who made the “Coachella doesn’t have any good bands” comment didn’t know how to respond, especially when I discussed their new ticket strategy for the concert (with tickets going on sale the very next day). However, the best part of this whole incident was when I added, “I guarantee three months from when Coachella starts to the end of the year you will ‘discover an amazing new band’ and think you’ve found the next great band. However, I bet you anything they played Coachella that year or the year before they blew up. For music buffs, they know the bands that are about to blow up and Coachella is just a showcase for those bands.”

 Sure enough one of the people interviewing me turned towards the “Coachella” individual and said, “Everything he just said is completely right.” Needless to say I didn’t get the job, but I was glad I stood my ground because music is something I’m passionate about. Sure enough it’s hard to find someone now who doesn’t know who Foster the People is or haven’t heard “Pumped Up Kicks.” Since I’m writing this, “Pumped Up Kicks” has been blowing up the charts on the Billboard Top 100 and I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes a Top 20 hit by the end of summer and this year.

The remaining eight tracks off Torches are highlighted by “Call It What You Want,” “Houdini” (the band’s first single), “Life of Nickel,” and “Miss You,” in which Mark Foster sounds strikingly similar to Chris Martin from Coldplay. Finally, the album closes off with “Warrant” and sends you off on a happy note. After one listen I found myself constantly singing along and I couldn’t be happier with this album. Easily one of the Top 20 albums of the year!

Torches is one of the best debut albums of the year and a must buy for anyone who considers themselves a buff of indie and/or alternative music. Inspired by current electro-pop bands such as Phoenix and MGMT, Foster the People is a band to watch. If you enjoy Foster the People then you should definitely check out Cults, Friendly Fires, Local Natives, Strange Talk and Young the Giant.


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