“Feels like a coming-of-age,” sings Mark Foster on his band’s massive-sounding new single, his springy tenor ricocheting off new-wave guitar blasts and arena-sized drums. Funny thing is, Foster the People never really had a coming-of-age: Re-tooled into a band from the jingle-writer frontman’s dead-end solo project, they found immediate success with their insanely catchy debut single, “Pumped Up Kicks,” a sort of slacker-hipster anthem for straight-A students. Then came the logical checklist: major label deal, huge debut album (2011’s genre-hopping Torches), world tours, and—inevitably—figuring out what the hell to do next.
With Supermodel, the band’s second album, the answer seems to be “more of everything,” maintaining Torches’ Technicolor approach but adding a hi-fi sheen to every note. U2-gone-Vampire Weekend opener “Are You What You Want to Be?” sets the maximalist standard, utilizing a shuffled African groove and a wall of chanted voices supporting Foster’s nasal hook. (As any mature rock band knows, the truest sign of artistic maturity is recording with African percussionists.)
Foster remains a nimble songwriter, with an affinity for combining diverse textural elements in interesting ways: “Pseudologia Fantastica” is a funky psych-pop stand-out; “Nevermind” blends hip-hop drums with jazzy acoustic guitars; “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon” is a stoner-pop hallucination, built on one of the finest WTF samples of all-time—an A$AP Rocky beat. (Side note: I literally checked my iTunes and said “What the fuck?” out loud when the track started.)
The crux is the album’s smothering, reverb-heavy, more-is-more production style, which smooths over some of the off-kilter quirks that made Torches’ sprawl so alluring. With Supermodel, Foster the People haven’t jumped the shark—they’ve just made it shinier.