EP Review: Foster The People – ‘In The Darkest Nights, Let The Birds Sing’

Los Angeles-based indie pop icons Foster The People are back with an easy-listening six-song EP. The only problem? It’s abysmal. The Mic’s Releases Editor, Alex Duke, explains why.

Foster The People, who are they again? Oh, the guys who sang Pumped Up Kicks and a couple of FIFA songs, right? To the casual listener, Foster The People are one of those bands known for a few legendary songs, mostly off their 2011 debut effort Torches. Yet, the band have been credited for consistently delivering high-calibre albums throughout the decade. The lauded Torches was followed up by the sophomore album Supermodel, which escorted the band into a more progressive, neo-psychedelic direction. Band alterations took place before the release of the third record, but again, Sacred Hearts Club contained a balance of Foster The People’s quintessential indie, art pop style, blended together with shrewd digressions into electronica and synth-pop.

Ever since the release of Sacred Hearts Club, Foster The People have worked in a more unconventional way, with the releases of several singles over the last couple of years ultimately culminating in a six-song EP rather than a fourth album, with the proceeds of the EP’s sales kindly being donated to charitable causes. Despite the good-natured sentiment behind it, as a collection of songs it seriously misses the mark. Fundamentally, the collection lacks any of the spark and ingenuity that propelled Foster The People to such a high degree of success nearly ten years ago. Many of the songs feel starkly out of place and the styles that bandleader Mark Foster tries to achieve simply fail to work. The fourth track The Things We Do is painfully overproduced, with the synthesisers coming across as overbearing rather than effective and the instrumentation poorly incorporated. Moreover, a cringe-inducing use of autotune towards the end of the track feels completely unnecessary.

Vocally, mic-wielder Mark Foster also misses the mark on a number of occasions; particularly on the mid-track Under The Moon. Whilst his unconventional pitch-switching works on some other Foster The People tracks, including Supermodel’s shimmering Goats In Trees, it feels messy on this track. Foster’s voice usually works well because of the way it fits with Foster The People’s distinctive indie-pop style, but when it is thrust into a ballad-like chorus, it sounds painfully out of place. Various attempts at progressive song arrangements falter, with Foster’s efforts to incorporate traditional easy listening styles with neo-psychedelic undertones coming across as comically dreadful.

If you were to look at the album in an optimistic way, the saving grace would perhaps be Lamb’s Wool, which has some layers of quality. Contrary to the rest of the EP, the song is constructed in a more efficient way, with the track containing clever, surround-sound production alongside a sublime piano riff. Listening to this collection, one may find it difficult to remind themselves that this is the same band that created Helena Beat, Don’t Stop (Colour on the Walls) and Houdini, but even Houdini himself would not be able to make this abomination disappear. It leaves an underwhelming imprint in what is such a generally impressive discography. Let us just hope that this was a misstep rather than an indication of what could be coming next.

Written by: Alex Duke

Edited by: Olivia Stock

Featured image courtesy of Foster The People via Facebook.