Worth a Thousand Words: Sacred Hearts Club by Foster The People
Sacred Hearts Club by Foster The People: Lighting Up a New Torch Released: July 21, 2017 Label: Columbia Records
Ever since Foster The People came on the scene in 2009, I’ve been a huge fan. From the crowd and commercially pleasing “Pumped Up Kicks,” to lesser known but still incredibly strong tracks like “Pseudologia Fantastica,” FTP has proven time and time again that they’re capable of turning out great albums. Longtime fans, however, may be deterred by their newest endeavor, as they spread their wings and experiment with their sound a touch.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before Foster The People produced an album that was more accessible to a broader market. Whereas before with Torches or Supermodel, which both had tracks that got tremendous amounts of radio play, they were still catering to a subset of alternative listeners who liked the mixture of rock, electronic, and pop elements that made up most of the tracks from those albums. Sacred Hearts Club is a solid attempt, nay, success, when it comes to penetrating the airwaves and appealing to new listeners. For some context, let’s look at the three singles that were released from this album ahead of the full release in July of 2017.
“Doing It For The Money” started the trend of the new “club sound” present throughout this album. Utilizing heavy double bass beats and glitchy sounding high-hat parts, this track is little bit farther away from the usual formula that FTP has followed before. In my opinion, it isn’t a bad sound to adopt; “Doing It For The Money” is an interesting, poppy slow-jam.
“Loyal Like Sid & Nancy,” the second single, is even more so a product of the current pop music market. Like “Doing It For The Money,” “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy” features a lot of heavy bass and other hip-hop influences, especially the rap/rhyming style of vocalizing that Mark Foster performs, synthesized instruments, and distortion. One could even go so far as to say that it’s got some characteristics of ‘trap music,’ but that may be a stretch. It’s certainly not my favorite track on the record, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a good song.
The last single to be released, “Sit Next To Me,” is more on point for Foster The People’s M.O., but still showcases how they’re trying to compete for the love of the pop music audience at large. Featuring gentle, optimistically sounding lyrics overlaid of a flowing, electronic beat, it’s no surprise that this track led the singles on Billboard’s US Rock Airplay[i] and Hot Rock Songs[ii] weekly charts by peaking at #2 and #5, respectively. That’s impressive given its release date in the middle of summer of 2017, which featured album releases from the likes of Phoenix with their album Ti Amo, and Arcade Fire’s Everything Now[iii]. Combined, all these albums had very similar musical styles and production values, which gave Sacred Hearts Club some competition.
Now, for the rest of the album, which begins with “Pay the Man.” Similar to the singles, it’s evident how the band is going in a new direction while still hanging onto their old sound; again, the vocals on this track differ slightly from other FTP albums. Like portions of “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy,” Mark Foster opts for a sort of rhyming, hip-hop-esque style, showcasing how the band is taking on influences from the hip-hop and club worlds of music as I mentioned earlier, a trend that will continue throughout the rest of the album.
I love the middle portion of this record. Starting with “SHC,” this and the next 4 tracks, “I Love My Friends,” “Orange Dream,” Static Space Lover,” and “Lotus Eater” feel very on brand for the classic sound of Foster the People that I was craving, mixed with a little bit more dancy tunes to create that new sound they seem to be striving for. Here, I think they’ve accomplished that goal without falling into the same ranks of current mainstream pop radio hits. My mind is drawn to the band fun. Remember them? Created after The Format’s dissolution, Nate Ruess formed fun. and in 2009 they released their debut album Aim and Ignite. Now, I loved their first album, but after they received some critical acclaim and gained a record deal with a major label, Fueled By Ramen, they released 2012’s Some Nights. In my opinion, this is where fun. ‘sold out.’ The songs on that album were littered with autotuned, poppy nonsense, in my opinion. There were some good tracks on the album, I’ll give it that; it got its recognition from some circles. Heck, the song “We Are Young” off the album won a Grammy![iv] I recognize the size of that accomplishment, but I feel that the band gave into the will of the monster that is commercialized music. Ultimately, the album was just too morphed by what the music market wanted at the time and got mixed reviews. I pray that Foster The People don’t fall into the same trap; I hope they continue to evolve, and that they don’t fully forget the sound that they gained success from. All in all, I enjoy Sacred Hearts Club the more I listen to it; it’s but the start to a new chapter in the short but impressive discography of a great band.
[i] Billboard. Foster The People | Chart History | Rock Airplay. 14 July 2018. Website. 14 November 2018. <https://www.billboard.com/music/Foster-the-People/chart-history/rock-airplay/song/1036169>.
[ii] —. Foster The People Chart History Hot Rock Songs. 12 May 2018. Website. 14 November 2018. <https://www.billboard.com/music/Foster-the-People/chart-history/rock-songs/song/1036169>.
[iii] Pearce, Sheldon, Sam Sodomsky and Noah Yoo. The Pitchfork Guide to Upcoming Releases: Summer 2017. 29 May 2017. Website. 14 November 2018. <https://pitchfork.com/news/73684-the-pitchfork-guide-to-upcoming-releases-summer-2017/>.
[iv] Mench, Chris. A Timeline Of Fueled By Ramen’s 22 Years Of Success. 17 May 2017. Website. 14 November 2018. <https://genius.com/a/a-timeline-of-fueled-by-ramen-s-22-years-of-success>.