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LA four-piece Foster The People return to the fore with their third studio album Sacred Hearts Club, three years after their previous LP Supermodel. For the band that skyrocketed into the public conscious via their 2011 single ‘Pumped Up Kicks’, this third record was always going to be a defining moment and an opportunity to cement their status as one of the most exciting rock bands of the decade.
Their latest album is once again defined by several tracks that are tailor-made for summer or at least will provide the hope of summer to come for us here in Australia. Tracks like ‘Doing It For The Money’ and ‘Sit Next To Me’ shimmer with gorgeous harmonies and dance-ready synth melodies.
The former in particular has the potential to be the biggest single of the whole record, as the band discover how playing around with instrumental and vocal textures can alter the feel of a single riff, even when it’s played over and over again.
With the ability of every band member to sing backing vocals behind their inimitable lead and band namesake Mark Foster, Foster The People have always been able to transform what is, on a surface level, a fairly simple melody, into a glistening and joyous musical experience. ‘Static Space Lover’ is another example of a track based around modest and upbeat instrumentation, that becomes other-worldly thanks to masterful vocal manipulation and harmonies featuring members of the band and a guest vocal from Jena Malone.
Founding bass player Jacob Fink leaving the band in 2015 was a big moment for Foster The People, but thanks to the multi-instrumental abilities of the other band members, his loss hasn’t proved too detrimental to Sacred Hearts Club. The initiation of former touring members Isom Innis and Seam Cimino as official band members this year, the addition of bassist Tyler Halford and continued work with Phil Danyew has allowed the band to once again craft a record that largely remains true to a sound you’d expect.
Sacred Hearts Club does also provide some more exploratory moments. Several tracks delve into ambiguous tonalities, with the band once again taking several opportunities to stray far from common major chord progressions. For example, ‘I Love My Friends’ straddles the line between melodic development and dissonance, demonstrating how Foster The People are able to manipulate the tonality of a song to reflect its subject material. The song, after all, celebrates loving your friends even if your friendship can be a disaster sometimes.
The record also features perhaps Foster The People’s most experimental track to date, a tune called ‘Loyal Like Sid and Nancy’. A difficult track to wrap your head around, it sees Mark Foster go pretty close to rapping, and brings together quite a bizarre instrumental, made up of a strong, glitchy house bassline, as well as hop violin and horns.
Sacred Hearts Club is a perfect third album for a band like Foster The People, as it simultaneously keeps the vibes for those who’ve loved their commercially successful music and also provides a glimpse into what they might be capable of, if they were to continue genre hopping down the rabbit hole into the worlds of hip hop and electronic music.