Capturing Nostalgia in a Bottle: Looking Back on Torches – By Joshua Hertz
Imagine this: you’re back in 2011, watching the sun set one cool evening near the end of summer. There isn’t a cloud in the sky, and you don’t have a care in the world. This is how it feels to listen to Torches, the 2011 debut release under labels Columbia and Startime by indie-pop band Foster the People, and that sentiment has endured in a look back at the record.
A fast-paced, synth-filled joyride from start to finish, Torches expertly combines the bright indie-pop sound of the late 2000s with catchy, Pro-Tools-made beats. The unique timbre of lead singer Marc Foster allows their music to be instantly recognizable, with Foster’s catchy lyrics stemming from his background in jingle writing allowing hits such as the lead single, “Pumped Up Kicks”, to become widely known. Arguably the most famous track off the album “Pumped Up Kicks”, which cemented itself in American culture to its memorable, dark lyrics juxtaposed with upbeat, happy energy that made the song both an earworm and a staple in the internet meme culture that was soon to come. While much of the lyrics are somewhat eclectic and meaningless at times, it perfectly fits how it feels to be young and free. The wild imagery and high energy as songs reach their peak allow for listeners to feel light listening along, bringing them back to the brighter days of youth.
In the short, ten song tracklist, other notable hits emerged from Torches, such as “Helena Beat”, which instrumentally was entirely crafted on ProTools and can be found in instrumental form on the music making software, and “Houdini” which was featured in many popular TV shows, including SNL, Gossip Girl, and Suits. The album’s shorter runtime of 38 minutes fits its high-paced, non-stop flow perfectly. A song that I would recommend listening to off the record that fits the vibe of the album perfectly is “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)”. The shortest track on the album, this track weaves feelings of familiarity and high energy expertly, and is great for when you need to walk fast or push yourself while exercising.
While definitely a fun listen, Torches definitely has its flaws. At times, the album sounds overly electronic, with synths droning away the humanity that makes the songs really pop, and can dampen the bright, indie-pop sound the album works so hard to foster. Additionally, the album does a great job of staying at a high, but this doesn’t leave as much time to reflect, and many songs can start to blend together as a result.
Overall, Foster the People’s Torches is an amazing time capsule to the early days of modern synth-based pop that brings back great memories with its vibrant sound, interesting album cover, and constant wave of energy.
If you like Torches, you might like:
Supermodel (2014) by Foster the People, Oracular Spectacular (2007) by MGMT, Making Mirrors (2011) by Gotye, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009) by Phoenix, Colors (2017) by Beck