Supermodel (2012) ★ ★ ★ 1/2
To be honest, I did judge a book by its cover when it came to listening to Foster the People’s sophomore album. While I loved their catchy hooks and sing-a-long creations in Torches, what led me to pay particular attention to this release was the psychedelic touch on the album art, injected with colour, and the hint of something more to come in the music.
While Supermodel doesn’t completely satisfy a psych rock dream, it is definitely a step away from their catchy indie pop of 2011. The album kicks off in full energy with anthemic group vocals and bustling percussion, which seems like the kind of energy which will translate well live.
While opener “Are You What You Want To Be” is an upbeat, lively tune, the following track “Ask Yourself” depends the mood slightly, with heavier and more personal subject material. Of course, Foster The People continue to combine the wordy lyrics with animated music. A sense of anxiety is embedded into atmospheric music but is still perceptible.
Overall, the album works better as separate tracks rather than a complete listen. The songs don’t flow completely into each other but perhaps that’s the way it’s meant to be, jolting the listener from a dark electronic-driven track (“A Beginner’s Guide To Destroying The Moon”) to a slower, almost acoustic meditation (“Goats on Trees”).
And if you listen closely there is bitterness underlying the melodies: “Bitten by an enemy that’s pretended to be my friend.” Other critics have commented on the less-than-subtle lyrics but there is a sense of fragility and openness to this album which makes it endearing. On the other hand, “Pseudologica Fantastica” leans toward a Tame Impala style instrumental section of guitar licks and heavy drumming, but not quite to that depth.
The strongest track remains to be single “Best Friend,” which is led by a strong bass line and the kind of hook that led people to FTP in the first place. This album sees a greater use of electronic effects than in their previous music but essentially they still create rock songs – sort of like a combination of free expression and pop structures that work for MGMT.
The influences of Mark Foster’s three-month escape to India and the Middle East (following the success of “Pumped Up Kicks”) influence the spirit of the album and he has even included weird and wonderful instruments such as the screaming buddha prayer machine.
While it does sound more grown up than their first record, it is not a sound altogether unrecognisable.Supermodel is a listenable album with nothing too obtrusive. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t end as strongly as it starts but there plenty of tracks in there that will become sing-a-long youth anthems in their own right.