Let's save everyone a lot of trouble. If you're looking for "Pumped Up Kicks 2: The Sequel" on Foster the People's new album, "Supermodel" (Columbia), it's not there. There's nothing even close.
That's not a failure on Foster the People's part, just their statement of purpose. The peppiness of "Pumped Up Kicks," which was arguably the song of the summer of 2011, camouflaged the tale of a schoolkid getting ready for a murderous rampage. On "Supermodel," they sound more like Vampire Weekend than that band that had everyone singing about outrunning bullets.
Mark Foster and friends incorporate Afro-pop, new wave and '90s alternative in a variety of combinations through most of the album, maintaining an upbeat but edgy vibe. One of the singles, "Coming of Age," sounds like New Order meets New Radicals. Another single, "Best Friend," adopts the same lyrical-musical disconnect that "Pumped Up Kicks" used, talking about a strung-out best friend while an '80s synth-funk party breaks out behind it.
It actually becomes quite an engaging party game throughout "Supermodel" to try to filter out all the various influences that helped shape a song. The raging sprawl of "A Beginner's Guide to Destroying the Moon" could net you everything from Boston to Silversun Pickups.
On "The Truth," Foster seemingly debates himself, using both a Bowie-esque baritone and a soaring falsetto to navigate a "world that's so broken." It's the most potent sign on "Supermodel" that Foster the People isn't content with just having something to say -- they want to say it in the most engaging way possible.
FOSTER THE PEOPLE
THE GRADE B+
BOTTOM LINE Better-run-better-running in a whole new indie-rock direction.