They've been a band for less than two years, their debut record, Torches, was released a month ago, and they sold out a (roughly) thousand-person-capacity venue a week before their date. Foster the People's June 29 show was originally slated for Mercy Lounge, but has since relocated downstairs to Cannery Ballroom and completely sold out. (Not that your buddy Craig ain't holding a few tickets, not to mention the after-party.) Those, to me, sound like the tell-tale signs of a buzz band on the rise, like it or not. For what it's worth (about two cents, I'd reckon), you can read my Critic's Pick on Wednesday night's show below.
So you’ve heard this song, right? You can’t not have heard this song. Before they’d even released their debut LP — Torches, which only came out last month — Foster the People’s single “Pumped up Kicks” had become an international hit, selling hundreds of thousands of copies and eventually soaring to No. 2 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. They even sold out Mercy Lounge before their record was released, necessitating the show’s move downstairs to Cannery Ballroom. Why? Well, for starters, according to Billboard’s Jill Menze, the single “attracts hipsters [and] moms” alike. And that makes sense. With its chilled-out, whirling electronic instrumentation and lazy groove, “Pumped up Kicks” is nonchalant enough to pass among smarmy baristas and record-store clerks. But it’s that absurdly, dangerously infectious chorus — which, as with any good charting single, is repeated about 74 damn times — that pulls in the tweens, their moms and everyone else who likes to buy singles via iTunes. So what about the rest of their material? Well, Torches is a fairly strong debut release, especially for a band so young. Tunes like “Houdini” hover dangerously close to unctuous, saccharine Maroon 5-y territory, and “Call It What You Want” sounds like a relatively uninspired club number. But the rest of the record sparkles with surprisingly sophisticated, idiosyncratic production and melodic complexity. We’re gonna have to face it: We’ve got another Vampire Weekend-esque (culturally speaking, not sonically speaking), fast-rising, epic buzz band on our hands, and there will likely be blowback. But these kids definitely have potential. Let’s give ’em a shot. —D. PATRICK RODGERS