Though I love the Strypes dearly, this was by far my most anticipated album of 2017. As I’ve blogged about before a couple of times before, I have been a huge fan of Foster the People since several months before I became obsessed with the Beatles. Three years after the release of Torches, I did a review of their second album, Supermodel, which you can find here, and in that post I gave the album a glowing review and said that it reignited my love of Foster the People that had blossomed in 2011.
Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, after Supermodel came out, I listened to it religiously for a while, realized it was brilliant and exactly what I had been hoping for from Foster the People, then sort of forgot about FTP again for a couple of years. Especially when the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album came out last year, my love for FTP fell dormant for a while. That is, until they announced tour dates back in the spring, one of which fell on an extremely convenient day and in an extremely convenient location. As soon as I got tickets, I began to listen to them obsessively once more. This obsession magnified when they dropped an EP of three new songs back in April and later announced a full album coming out this summer.
I just listened to the album again, for the third time, and my ears are ringing with delight from playing it at full volume through my headphones. This is an album to turn all the way up and play as loudly as you can to get the full experience of its magic. Sacred Hearts Club is not as acoustic-sounding as Supermodel and not quite as electronica-heavy as Torches, but it is a fantastic fusion of their previous sounds into a wonderful new album. Once again, if critics (and fans) would stop comparing every single song that FTP releases to Pumped Up Kicks (in my opinion, not even close to their best song), they would realize that Foster the People is a much needed breath of fresh air from other music and from the turbulent world in general. Mark Foster even said in an interview that regarding this album, “I felt like people needed a hug,” which is so lovely and pure that it fills me with even more love for FTP.
Foster the People stated that they created this album to be joyful and “give people a break,” and I actually can’t remember the last time I heard an artist I like explicitly say that about their music. I feel similarly to music how I feel about theater, which is that there is nothing wrong with it having a social purpose or message, but there is also nothing wrong with it being catchy and genuinely happy. SHC accomplishes both of those missions expertly, combining the perceptive and thoughtful lyrics that I’ve come to expect from Foster the People with innovative musical elements that literally make me grin from ear to ear. It is more tightly constructed and upbeat than Supermodel and more musically diverse than Torches. While I haven’t heard it enough to fully determine its ranking among FTP’s overall discography, I already think very highly of it, and I can’t wait for my opinion to evolve as I listen to the album more.
- Pay The Man – I didn’t love it when it first came out, but it’s grown on me as I’ve listened closer to all of the cool sounds and instrumental elements. An interesting opener because it’s not super upbeat, but it sets the tone for the album well.
- Doing It For The Money – This has gotten a lot of flak from FTP fans for being too “poppy” and “mainstream,” and while it is both of those things, it’s actually a better version of the genre it is imitating. It sounds the least like FTP out of all the songs on the album, but it still retains enough distinctive FTP touches to pique my interest.
- Sit Next To Me – This also grew on me immensely after the studio version came out, which in my opinion works better than the song does live. This is possibly my favorite musical production on the album; it sounds amazing on headphones and has a nice groove that keeps me interested throughout.
- SHC – A fantastic guitar riff opens this song, though it sounds just a tad too much like a potential car commercial for it to be a favorite. This was definitely a fantastic concert opener though, and has an infectious energy that I quite enjoy.
- I Love My Friends – Though I think the lyrics for this song are unusually uninspired in parts for an FTP song, particularly the chorus, it’s certainly a lot of fun and I love the second half. I think this will grow on me as I continue listening to the album.
- Orange Dream – An interesting interlude, though the first few seconds are a bit jarring. I can’t say this is my favorite part of the album, but it doesn’t stand out negatively.
- Static Space Lover – A BEAUTIFUL song that is a clear love letter to one of Mark Foster’s biggest influences, the Beach Boys. From the transcendent backing vocals, to the absolutely delightful instrumental break, to the friendly drumbeat and guitar solos, this is one of my favorites on the album.
- Lotus Eater – Tied with “Static Space Lover’ as my favorite song on the album. It is everything I wanted from FTP on this album because it’s a straight-up rock song with a fantastic guitar part and biting, clever lyrics. I wish there were more songs like it on the album, but because there aren’t, it stands out in a wonderful way, and it seems to inject me with instant energy.
- Time To Get Closer – “Lotus Eater” seamlessly fades into this interlude, which at first I wished were longer but now feel is the perfect length. It’s a gorgeous slice of musical beauty that has a psychedelic haze washing over it.
- Loyal Like Sid and Nancy – This song has also gotten a surprising amount of hate among FTP fans for being “a mess” or “too clubby,” with which I wholeheartedly disagree. Despite the hip hop beats, this song is a structural masterpiece, and I actually like it better than similar FTP songs like “Miss You” and “Life On The Nickel” from Torches. It needs a few listens, but it’s quite a stunning achievement.
- Harden the Paint – The beginning of this song is a bit jarring, but the song as a whole is an all-encompassing listening experience. I haven’t heard anything like it, from FTP or anyone else, but the more I hear this the more I’m a fan.
- III – A lovely album closer, and the highlight of this song is definitely the piano break. One of the few consistently slow songs in FTP’s catalog, but it has a beautiful melody that gives me an image a boat sailing into the ocean on a long journey.
What I’ve determined after writing this song-by-song review is that, contrary to my opinion of most albums, I like the second half of this album better than the first. It’s more structurally and musically daring, which is what makes Foster the People so special to me. They reiterate in their interviews that they are in love with the creative process of making a cohesive album and sharing their music with the world, which I respect in today’s singles-driven music industry. If I were to compare this album to Foster the People’s previous albums, I’d say it and Supermodel are similar in that they both had to grow on me, whereas I was obsessed with Torches from the very first listen.
But that is taking nothing away from this album, which unlike perhaps any other album I know fills me with energy and motivation. Every time I’ve listened to it, I am left feeling refreshed and uplifted, which is exactly what musicians should strive to achieve in this day and age. Foster the People should not be slammed for “failing to create another Pumped Up Kicks” or “selling out” (which they haven’t). They should be celebrated for continuing to extend their musical range and mature their sound. Listening to Foster the People has forced me to expand my ears and appreciate different musical sounds and genres I had previously dismissed. They challenge me as a musical listener, but always leave me completely fulfilled. I feel so completely alive when I listen to them. Sacred Hearts Club may not be the album the world deserves right now, but it’s certainly the album we need.