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Less pumped: Foster the People’s sophomore album loses the thread

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Annie Zaleski

Two and a half stars

Foster the People Supermodel

Second albums are never easy—especially second albums from bands known for having memorable songs but no real distinctive identity. That’s certainly the case with (curse of?) clean-cut indie-dance band Foster the People. On the strength of the macabre synth-pop hit “Pumped Up Kicks” and goofier “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls),” the LA group’s 2011 debut, Torches, went gold and received a Grammy nod. Yet for all this promise, Foster the People felt like little more than a composite of quirky psych-poppers like MGMT, The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala.

The group’s second record, Supermodel, certainly has its share of cosmic touches—from sighing Beach Boys-y harmonies to starry-eyed, rainbow-hued standout “Pseudologia Fantastica.” And to the band’s credit, the album has more color; Blur’s somber slacker-country-folk (“Goats in Trees,” “Nevermind”), Duran Duran’s late-’80s slick disco (“Best Friend”) and deconstructed glamtronica (“A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon”) are obvious new influences.

All too soon, however, Supermodel runs out of gas. The goodwill engendered by sterling lead single “Coming of Age” dissipates in the face of cavity-inducing jingle-pop and meandering dirges full of unsteady falsetto and randomized keyboards. Plus, the provocative questions posed by the first half of the album (“Are you what you want to be?,” “Is this the life you’ve been waiting for?”) devolve into half-baked pity parties masquerading as philosophical depth (e.g., “The Truth”: “I’ve been trying so hard not to be like them”), diminishing the potentially interesting existential crises about overstuffed culture and rampant consumerism. In the end, Supermodel’s execution can’t match its ambition.

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