The first thing to do when listening to this album is accept right away that this is NOT Torches, The Sequel. It’s much more of a concept album, and once you get comfortable with the overall vibe, the songs will definitely grow on you. I love that this album is very psychedelic and rock-oriented. There was only one really guitar-heavy song on Torches, but here both acoustic and electric guitar are present on basically every song. The songs here primarily deal with Mark Foster’s apparent detestation of the idea that one must sell oneself to the public in order to be happy. There are no stereotypical “love songs” on this album, which shows me that while Foster definitely writes songs from the heart, he doesn’t write songs from a one-sided perspective. Though the entire album is inspiring and worth listening to, I’d definitely recommend “Coming of Age,” “Nevermind,” and “Fire Escape” as exceptional stand-alone tracks.
However, I must admit that my favorite song by far, “Best Friend,” truly captures the magical energy of Torches better than any other on this album. In an interview, Foster said that he wrote it while trying to get out of writer’s block. To be stuck in a rut and then come up with this exceptional song? That’s talent right there! Whenever I listen to this amazing song, I feel like doing the head-bopping thing that Chris Kattan, Will Ferrell, and Jim Carrey do in the SNL sketch. The song is just that catchy. There’s also a part in the middle that sounds a lot like Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees. If there’s one song from this album that will be played at parties, it’s this one.
I’ve read many reviews of this album that have shocked me with their overt negativity. If anything, I thought this album would be lauded by critics, but it’s been almost the opposite. From what I’ve gathered, the #1 reason why critics don’t seem to love it is that it’s not as poppy, fun, and summery as Torches. People seem to have no patience with new albums these days. One critic’s review said flat-out, “The songs suck,” which is just incorrect.
I take issue with the idea that if music is not instantly accessible to the ears, it automatically sucks. If I want a poppy, fun, summery album, I’ll just listen to Torches. Supermodel is a completely different listening experience and should be appreciated in its own right. Just because the Beatles didn’t make an exact replica of Please Please Me the second time around doesn’t mean that With The Beatles wasn’t as good. For that matter, even Revolver, usually considered one of the Beatles’ best albums, didn’t strike me initially as being amazing. It took me more than a few listens to really get into it and figure out what the heck was going on half the time. I now love Revolver, but just because its brilliance didn’t strike me right away doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth another shot.
Anyway, if I have one major criticism of this album, it’s that I get the sense that Foster the People was trying really, really hard to make a fantastic, groundbreaking work of art. I definitely appreciate the artistry, but sometimes it feels a little forced. This is why I usually prefer more low-key albums like Rubber Soul and Madman Across The Water which don’t feel like they were supposed to be brilliant, as opposed to obvious masterpieces like Sgt. Pepper or Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I love when the brilliance of an album seems to happen by accident, which doesn’t quite happen for me with this album.
Despite that one minor quibble, I think this album is fantastic. It’s insightful, introspective, and dares listeners to question things that they may never bother to think about. At least Foster the People is trying to evolve their sound, be interesting, and keep their fans guessing, even if they tried a little too hard here. But I can always forgive overachievers, and they deserve to stick around for a few more albums and grace us with more awesome, interesting, thoughtful music. And murals.
Buy Supermodel on iTunes today! You won’t regret it! Enjoy the rest of the weekend!