Mark Foster et al are the un-coronated kings of the summer jam
Foster the People’s new album, Sacred Hearts Club, follows the grand tradition of manufacturing camaraderie through album titles, a la Sgt. Pepper. It also follows Foster the People’s general modus operandi of lyrics consisting of cleverly ridiculous word salad that is probably a lot deeper than it sounds on a first listen.
This phenomenon is encapsulated perfectly by the first track on the album, entitled, “Pay the Man.” The song contains dreamy imagery and appears to be a kind of cautionary tale, with proverbial lyrics like: “The deaf man heard what the mute man said, and then they all followed where the blind man led.” It warns also against complacency: “I was laughing real hard until my teeth fell out.” Foster the People’s sparkling synths and thought-provoking recitative deliver a sound that feels expected, not a particularly distant departure from their usual verbose stylings.
That’s not to say that the album isn’t worth a listen or that the new material doesn’t have an ethos of its own. Some tracks even sound more radio-ready than the ubiquitous, “Pumped Up Kicks.” Perhaps the band was trying to squeeze in a summer hit, with “Doing it For the Money,” serving up a catchy and popular sound while, “calling all the poets into battle.” This is followed up with “Sit Next to Me,” a fun number about the early stages of courtship with campy transitions that tease key changes that never solidify, and synth backing suggesting kinship with acts like Owl City.
The title track, “Sacred Hearts Club,” introduces a spacey, cosmic theme with synths that sound like a sci-fi UFO and the lyric, “You are a secret that’s worth keeping.” This is a summery dance jam and a highlight of the record. The glorification of the mundane that seems to pervade a lot of Foster the People’s work continues on, “I Love My Friends,” the anti-FOMO anthem about being stuck in the grind while your buddies are out doing cool stuff. The space motif is reinforced with a full-length, almost glam-rock number, “Static Space Lover.” This track sounds like it’d be the perfect modern backing to a tap number on America’s Got Talent.
Mark Foster is all of us when he sings, “I’m sorry I was late, I didn’t wanna come,” in the vaguely pop-punk “Lotus Eater.” The sound, or at least the content, skews more punk on “Loyal Like Sid and Nancy,” which appears to malign materialism and comment on the current condition of the state as, “so far from love.” A feature of this album is short, interlude-like tracks featuring copious reverb and distortion, and Vincent Price style speech. Whether these interludes break the album into purposeful movements remains to be seen, but in the meanwhile, the tracks in between them are well worth the ride.