Grade: 93% (A)
You have heard the song. I guarantee it. You have likely hummed it without knowing, or even found yourself mumbling, "all the other kids with their pumped up kicks." Foster the People's lead single did in fact blow up this past summer. What people don't know is that that song is just a part of an overall great album. Put simply, Torches is dance music. Whether it is a dance competition in the heat of the afternoon at Lollapalooza or a hipster gathering in a loft in Brooklyn, this album could be spun for it's entirety and not one person could admit that they didn't move to the rhythms at least once.
The tracks on Torches each sound very similar yet every single one holds it's own individual traits. With the lyrics rotating between personal romance, school shootings and everything in between, the songs are admittedly synth based yet do feature some solid guitar work. The sampling, on "Call It What You Want" for example, is noticeable but the grand piano riffs are still a major part of the core of the song. No bassline is impressive enough to wow but they are just catchy enough to be a worthy part of each song. There is a mixture of both drum machine and classic drum kit work, and on their concert closer "Helena Beat," lead singer Mark Foster duels the main drummer with a solo on a single drum at the front of the stage. Their is an emphasis on the bridges of songs considering the rather simple song set up and they tend to use the bridge as a way to briefly escape the chorus yet still keep you caught on only to hurl you right back into the chorus one last time.
While songs like "Miss You" and "I Would Do Anything For You" do have their boyish feel (see lyric "Ooo la la, I'm falling in love"), a few listens through and you move past it and just enjoy their poppy goodness for what they are. "Don't Stop (Color On the Walls)" and "Life on the Nickel" are carefully crafted, catchy songs sure to please a casual listener (see advertisements on T.V.).
The strength of the album, however, is in the back end with the back to back five-minute plus songs of "Warrant" and "Broken Jaw." The band gets a chance to show their serious side from the start of second to last track with it's angelic vocalizations led into a strong baseline by the percussion and covered with strong piano riffs. The lyrics are the key to these two tracks, where Foster sings "I've been judged, I've been a bug unknown." The catchy chorus still remains in "Warrant" but is non-existent for the first time during the closer. Instead, "Broken Jaw" features delicious synths for your listening pleasure. Easily the most emotionally expressive song on the album, the track also has the most impressive bridge, showing a variety of textures and a building keyboard solo that explodes into the most important part of the album, both lyrically and musically. Foster sings, "sometimes you find yourself, waiting for someone, to come around, and it's hopeless hoping to be found, then it arrives and says you're perfect my love," and then uses every fiber of his being to let out every emotion in his body as he screams "take it away." You can't not get chills. It's impossible. And then it ends just as abruptly as it started.
While it might be built to please a group of 17-year old girls, Torches is impossible to resist. Don't be shy to warm up to it once you get over all the reasons you have to not listen to it. Foster the People is certainly talented, and now that they have a lot of their pop out of them, they might head in a different direction with their next record because it may be difficult to replicate something along the lines of Torches.