After exploding onto the scene, Foster The People disappeared for three years, returning March 14 with the release of their much-anticipated second album, Supermodel.
Part of what made Foster The People’s debut album Torches so successful — going platinum in two countries, gold in four, and being nominated for a Grammy — was its infectious pop-synth layered beats, occasionally drowning out the dark lyrics of songs like “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Warrant.” Surprisingly for some fans, Supermodel involves a lot more acoustic guitar and spotlight on lyrics that sound like they came straight from Foster’s diary rather than the eargasmic, catchy tunes heard on the previous album — although some of that is still present. Foster and the band played a few shows to promote their new record, including a Los Angeles concert in front of the building mural dedicated to Supermodel, located just a few blocks away from Foster’s home. Citing influences such as David Bowie, The Clash and the sounds of West Africa for the new album in an interview with Billboard, Supermodel is Foster’s attempt to truly let his fans feel what it’s like to be inside his head.
Here’s a song-by-song breakdown of the track list:
1. “Are you What you Want to be?”: Inspired by a recent trip to Morocco, Supermodel’s opening track sounds like the thoughts of someone who’s been lying in the sun for too long. With colorful images like a “war machine” casually having a drink with “chrome hand guerillas,” Foster seemingly can’t believe his eyes. He continually asks himself “Are you what you want to be?” echoing the existentialist sentiments of questions he doesn’t want to face: “Well I’m afraid of saying too much and ending a martyr/ even more so I’m afraid to face God and say I was a coward.”
2. “Ask Yourself”: This track is primarily based in the sounds of acoustic guitar and drums, with Foster getting even more introspective about the perils of ambition and wanting it all. “Is this the life you’ve been waiting for?/ You’re hoping that you’ll be where you want with a little more/ Well, ask yourself,” he sings, making the listener wonder if he’s talking to you or himself.
3. “Coming of Age”: Arguably the closest to Torches that Supermodel gets, the first single off Foster The People’s sophomore album contains some of the candy-coated electric guitar and synth melodies that make young festival-goers everywhere fist-pump in unison.
4. “Nevermind”: This track is basically one big, relaxing exhale with a simple acoustic guitar riff featured in the background accompanying Foster’s assuring words to listeners that everything will be fine, despite the first three songs where he essentially asks you to question your very existence.
5. “Pseudologia Fantastica”: For anyone who was wondering what the title of this song even means, Wikipedia declares “compulsive lying.” This song will have you feeling like you’re floating aimlessly through space (literally, the synthesizers sound like intergalactic travel) with Foster’s voice on surround-sound, asking why you broke your promises to him: “Why’d you say/ Why’d you say that you’d come right back for my love, for my faith?”
6. “The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones”: Approximately 33 seconds-that certainly sounds like angels welcoming someone (presumably, Mr. Jones) somewhere, probably because there aren’t any lyrics.
7. “Best Friend”: This one definitely could have belonged on Torches, with its light, upbeat funk sound and heavy bass guitar. Foster works his lyrical magic, singing about watching a friend battle drug addiction while the sound itself suggests that perhaps Foster is also high. This one is my pick for the next single off Supermodel.
8. “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon”: We’re launched back into outer space with this next track, featuring a sample of A$AP Rocky’s “LVL.” With imagery of looking skyward to find questions to marry his answers, Foster sees only black and white in this song, gesturing to the large gap between success and failure. “Are you ready to drink, or are you ready to drown?” he sings ominously as the band experiments with grungy reverb and fuzzy bass sounds.
9. “Goats in Trees”: As the album begins to slow down, so do the songs. Foster plays with his deeper voice range rather than solely relying on his well-known falsetto.
10. “The Truth”: Foster’s falsetto does get a work out in this song, where he seems to have found some answers to questions he’s been asking throughout the album, although he doesn’t state them explicitly. Instead, he sings. The space-like sounds woven in and out of these messages also serve as an audio reminder that there seems to be something out there much bigger than these questions, but Foster seems content with the truth he’s learned for now.
11. “Fire Escape”: The final song is a heartbreaking lament, one that sounds like it belongs on a Bon Iver record, from the point of a view of a fire escape in Los Angeles that seems to be the only constant in an ever-changing world. The image of the fire escape is very poignant here, always expected to be strong and secure in the face of adversity: “I am a fire escape/ My spine is made of iron, my heart pumps out old red paint.” Surprisingly, it’s the only song on the album where the simple sounds of acoustic guitar strings seem to fit the mood of the subject matter. “Save yourself,” Foster sings, the final line of Supermodel.
All in all, I’d rate Supermodel a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. Some songs, like “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying The Moon” and “Goats In Trees,” don’t quite connect singer and listener and could have been left off the record all together. Foster’s attempt to let his listeners inside his mind seems to have only partially achieved what he set out to do.