Album review: Foster the People – ‘Sacred Hearts Club’

Highs and lows.

Foster the People have gone through a whole bunch of changes the last few years. After striking it big with their crossover hit Pumped Up Kicks, the band seem set for super stardom. Their 2011 debut album Torches solidified the band, proving to be a major critical and commercial success. Carving out a niche for themselves in the indie pop scene, the band following this up with 2014’s Supermodel, which went in a more rock-influenced direction.

Despite having some occasional solid moments (such as the tracks Coming of Age, Best Friend and the criminally under-appreciated Goats in Trees), this sophomore effort was a bit of an all-round misfire, mostly because of the sub-par songwriting that didn’t do the sounds they were going for justice.

But, flash forward to now. With several lineup changes, the band is back with their third effort. This record sees Foster the People head back to their pop roots, however this time with a more potent psychedelic and indietronica edge, using sounds from the 60s and 70s to give us a bit of a throwback feel to the record.

The sounds of the record are its major strengths: unlike the hodgepodge nature of Supermodel, Sacred Hearts Club feels like a cohesive project, with tracks connecting and flowing together. The clean production style really compliments the sound that the band was going for, and it allows for particular moments of stunning music. Foster in many of the tracks sounds like he is singing through a thick haze of synthesizers, which distorts and makes the tracks flow effortlessly.

The highlight of the record is undoubtedly Sit Next to Me, proving to be a real case of less-is-more. Its tried and true songwriting style combined with its production, hip-hop and psychedelic influences makes for a really impactful song, as Foster sings about resurrecting a relationship. Doing it for the Money is another strong example, with its hip-hop influences worn on its sleeve.

The highlight of the record is undoubtedly Sit Next to Me, proving to be a real case of less-is-more.

These are side to side with the likes of rhythm driven Static Space Lover (which features an awesome guest vocal performance from Jena Molene) and tracks like SHC, which are much more within the band’s wheelhouse. The sounds of the record are consistently fascinating, and it would make for an overall solid record if only the songwriting had any memorable bite to it.

Sacred Hearts Club stumbles in much the same way that Supermodel did: in that you have so many interesting sounds and performances scattered across the record, but the songwriting makes it all feel so unexciting and unadventurous. Dare I say it, maybe even a bit boring.

Supermodel felt much like the band was shooting for complex, detailed songwriting and landing in a bit of a mess. Here, it’s pretty much exactly the same. Songs like I Love My Friends seem so shallow in writing style, while Orange Dream and Time to Get Closer barely have an impact.

Taking the cake, though, is Loyal like Sid & Nancy, which seems to cover about 10 musical genres over the course of its four-minute runtime. While it seems intentional for the song to be all over the place and just as cacophonous as the eponymous relationship, the result is an ugly mess of a track that actually isn’t that nice to listen to.

In short, Sacred Hearts Club has its high moments, but there are just as many lows. Maybe if the band went back to the less-is-more songwriting style of songs like Pumped Up Kicks, it might see them strike gold again. Overall, this record ended up being passable, but not much more.

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