Review Summary: An excellent debut album, yet it could have been so much more.
First impressions of music can be very misleading, I know the first time I listened to The National’s, "Bloodbuzz Ohio", I thought that it was possibly the most ridiculous song I had ever heard. What about extremely confusing lyrics, awkwardly deep vocals and a beat that was impossible to follow could be entertaining? Yet here we are, several months later, with me owning the entire discography of The National and listing them easily within my top five bands of all time, if not my favorite. The National is proof that some music takes more than one listen to appreciate how deep it can be, Foster The People is not that kind of music. The first time I heard "Pumped Up Kicks", Foster The People immediately found a place in my heart with possibly the catchiest song I have ever heard. When they released their EP, I picked it up with more eagerness than any other record to that point, seriously hoping that this wasn't going to just be a one-hit wonder, and I wasn't let down. "Houdini" and "Helena Beat" were just as equally catchy and satisfying as "Pumped Up Kicks", which only made my angst for their debut album grow even more. When Foster The People's debut album, Torches, started streaming, my fears were put to rest. They had created an excellent album that provides exciting, upbeat, and just plain fun music from the very first listen to the last.
Torches feels like it could have been MGMT’s breakout album, with all of the catchy electronic beats from songs like “Electric Feel” and “Kids” being present on this record in tracks like “Helena Beat”, “Pumped Up Kicks”, “Call it What You Want”, and “Life on a Nickel”. Torches provides an excellent mix of MGMT style, catchy alternative music with smooth synthesizer, pounding drum beats and its share of meaningful lyrics. Torches does everything MGMT did with their debut and more, the difference is Torches doesn’t misstep like Oracular Spectacular did. Where the latter half of Oracular Spectacular seems out of place, Foster The People’s attempt at a more soulful and meaningful record is not all that far removed. Except for song “Warrant”, the entirety of this album seems void of any kind of simple lyrical gimmicks, which separates FTP from being just another synth-pop band. Songs like “Waste” and “Miss You” both showcase a different side of Foster The People, one that proves there is definitely some potential to Foster The People’s music to grow out of the electric style of Torches and into a more musically-oriented one. “Miss You” is the real example of the raw talent side of Foster The People that really shines, with this being one of the best tracks on the album. Mark Foster’s voice during the chorus is chilling and powerful, with all musical accompaniment dropping out for his voice to show just the caliber of talent he posses.
Even with the subtle nuances of Mark Foster’s voice and the excellent accompaniment the rest of the band provides, Torches is an album that can be enjoyed immensely by taking it just at face value. It has the simple style and the fun, exciting tracks like “Helena Beat” and “Call It What You Want” to satisfy the simplistic nature of the album. Still, there is enough ingenuity behind the music to prove this isn’t just another pop album, but the style of music on each track is essentially the same. Mark Foster’s vocals, for the most part, fluctuate little between songs, only changing speed and rhythm with which he delivers them. The synth and drum beats are solid on each track, and serve as the real standout difference between songs. These aren’t flaws that ruin the album, but it definitely serves to make the album skin deep to some extent. Alt Nation on Sirius-XM radio recently did an acoustic session with FTP, and it was one of the better one’s I have heard. “Pumped Up Kicks” sounds amazing acoustic, and the band really showcased their musical talent. This acoustic sound is definitely something that should have been more present on the record, and it would have added some real diversity into the album.
The problem with Torches isn’t that it’s bad; it’s that it could have been much more. Where Torches could have been an amazing debut album showcasing the talents of FTP, instead it became an extension of their debut EP. And while Torches isn’t the next great leap forward in electric alternative music, it is the next great leap forward for FTP. For the first step being the hardest to take, Foster The People have taken it in stride and created a very enjoyable and solid debut album. They have laid the groundwork for what should be a great music career.
Album Rating: 3.25