Following on from 2014’s Supermodel and their earlier 2017 release III EP, Foster The People have returned with Sacred Hearts Club. Hip-hop, alternative, funk, and indie-pop influences are all evident and well balanced on this release, demonstrating a clear evolution from the group who first burst into the international music scene with their controversial, but undeniably excellent, “Pumped Up Kicks” from 2011’s Torches.
The simultaneously calm and frantic tone of Sacred Hearts Club is set pretty much instantly with opening track “Pay the Man”. Hip-hop beats underlay an extensive use of sampling throughout the verses as front man Mark Foster monotonically pseudo-raps into a contrastingly beautiful melody-infused chorus. The hit track from their III EP, “Doin’ It for the Money”, proves to be one of Foster’s stronger vocal performances on the record. With synthesiser bass notes filling out the low end of the soundscape, the vocalist’s iconic airy falsetto glides over much of the track, with the bridge of the track proving to be a highlight through some excellent vocal production.
As the first track not featured on the III EP, “Sit Next to Me” marks a distinct departure from the tone of the opening two songs and gives us our first taste of the funk influences at play on Sacred Hearts Club. Unsurprisingly, a rock-solid bassline anchors the piece, with summery background guitars and synthesisers adding to the chilled atmosphere of the track. Again, falsetto vocals feature as Foster relevantly sings “Just come over here and sit next to me / And I’ll take you high”.
“SHC”, “I Love My Friends”, and “Orange Dream”, despite being mostly upbeat and hardly lacking in intensity, combine to provide what is musically a mid-album lull. None add a great deal to the overall sound of the record, while lyrically there is little to provoke thought or consider listening to over. Thankfully, “Static Space Lover” with gorgeous feature vocals from Jena Malone, pops up to save the day. Although Foster and Malone sound great together, more solo parts for Malone would not have gone amiss given her great performance on this 80s-inspired track.
The tail end of the record proves to be the perfect place to summarise the sound that Foster The People have achieved. “Loyal Like Sid & Nancy” has a very Twenty One Pilots-esque feel in the way it jumps from verses that feel panicked and gritty into an oppositely relaxed chorus composed of upbeat synth and vocal melodies. “Harden the Paint”, the penultimate track of the album, revisits the foundational bass synth and falsetto vocal combination used on “Doin’ It for the Money” to, in conjunction with closing song “III”, round out the record nicely.
Production on both Torches and the group’s second album Supermodel were excellent, and this trend doesn’t change on Sacred Hearts Club. Bass guitar is present but not overpowering throughout, while the numerous synthesisers are similarly well balanced given their prominent role on the record. I’ve mentioned vocals a few times to this point and with good reason – the moments when they shine are frequent and well deserved.
Sacred Hearts Club is a great example of a band playing to their strengths while still adding new and interesting elements to create a cohesive and interesting sound. While Supermodel came and went without much of a fuss in the wake of the overwhelming success of Torches, Sacred Hearts Club proves to be an excellent return for Foster The People. If you’re in the mood for something chill but with a bit of an edge, this is one for you.
Review Score: 8 out of 10.
Sacred Hearts Club is out now via Columbia Records.