For many, Mark Foster’s tendency towards eclecticism in song writing is one of the drawcards for his group, Foster the People. Drawing upon contrasting genres and styles can certainly make for an intriguing listen, stoking interest in the otherwise mundane or providing a novel slant on something that one thinks one is familiar with. It is not something easily done and, even if unsuccessful, the attempt is frequently commendable and certainly something that a lot of groups could benefit from trying more often.
Yet with their third album, Sacred Hearts Club, Foster the People should have checked their penchant for exploring varied sounds at the studio door. Or at the very least, spent more time ensuring those sounds were more smoothly integrated and more coherent in the presentation. As it is, alt-hip-hop beats sit alongside indie-pop, which juts up against garage-tinged indie-rock. By the end, it is difficult to tell who is more bumfuzzled, the audience or the band.
Album opener, Pay the Man, is carried by a good groove that doesn’t quite mask the disconnect between the song’s transitions between alt-hip-hop and more conventional pop, while the following track, Doing It for the Money, demonstrate that Foster the People can better integrate these disparate styles. Doing It for the Money isn’t great, but it’s not bad. Second single, Sit Next to Me, is bland, inoffensive, indie-pop that will never escape the shadow of songs like Pumped Up Kicks.
Saccharine sentimentality gets a look in on I Love My Friends, while the instrumental interlude of Orange Dream punctuates the album like a misplaced comma. The record’s second half is more engaging than the first, managing to simultaneously be more coherent and just as disjointed as that which preceded it. With an indie-rock sound straight from the mid-2000s, Lotus Eater is Sacred Hearts Club’s most musically engaging song, but its abrupt end is confusing. Is Time to Get Closer meant to be an outro of sorts for the former song, or are their rapid ending and start placed together merely through the vagaries of chance?
Loyal Like Sid & Nancy was an astute choice for lead single with its catchy dance beats, although it isn’t particularly representative of the album’s overall tone it does somewhat set up Harden the Paint and III to close. From a production standpoint, there are no grounds to fault Sacred Hearts Club, yet this cannot hide the fact that neither the individual songs nor the album as a whole proves especially compelling. The aphorism ‘kill your darlings’ would have served Foster the People well in their preparations for this record.