When Foster the People released Torches in 2011, it was clear that the band had something special to offer the indie pop scene. The record finds itself as an intriguing mix of new wave, synth pop, and other 80's infused sounds used in a creative and refreshing way that never feels dated. Even when held side by side with other 80's inspired indie bands like MGMT, the Foster The People sound finds its way in a category of its own.
From the very first track Helena Beat, it's clear that this was not a typical indie album. The song finds itself built around an infectious back and forth between a synthesizer and a guitar riff then layered with Mark Foster’s falsetto vocals. The real show stealer on the album however is Houdini. With hypnotic keyboards, and catchy lyrics, Houdini is one of the finest synth-pop indie songs released in the rebirth of 80’s influenced synth-pop alongside tracks like Electric Feel by MGMT, or Life Was Easier When I Only Cared About Me by Bad Suns.
With other memorable songs like Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls) and Call It What You Want, Torches was cemented into the foundation of the synth-pop revival of the 21st century. Oddly enough though, if you ask Foster The People Fans, the album's biggest hit, Pumped Up Kicks does not quite hold up to the other tracks on the album. In all fairness that’s primarily due to it being played to death on the radio and every other medium available in a similar way that Feel It Still, although the most popular song by Portugal. The Man, by no means portrays that band in an accurate light at all. I would be lying though if I didn’t enjoy a spin of Pumped Up Kicks every now and again, but nothing along the lines of constantly wanting to hit repeat on Houdini.
Torches is a well-crafted debut album that highlights Foster the People's talent for blending different genres in a unique and engaging way. The band's ability to mesh elements of new wave and synth pop without sounding derivative is a testament to their creativity and musicianship. It was quite clear that the band had a formulaic approach to their songwriting on this record and although it was a good formula, the back half of the album can subtly sound a bit repetitive.. Can’t complain too much though, because all in all, Torches is still a jaw dropper.
If you haven’t given the record a full spin in some time, now may be as good of a time as any to fire it back up.