Altuesdays: Foster the People’s “Sacred Hearts Club” is a euphoric journey through every sound of alternative

Altuesdays: Foster the Peoples Sacred Hearts Club is a euphoric journey through every sound of alternative

Sophia Fowler '22, Multimedia Manager

Among alternative bands deep rooted in the alternative genre through the 2010s, Foster the People have placed themselves amongst the most iconic. They’ve had their fair share of Top 40 plays, while still maintaining their closed position in alternative radio. Despite some critics who may argue their debut album, Torches, which features top hits such as “Pumped Up Kicks”, “Helena Beat” and “Houdini”, their third studio album, Sacred Hearts Club, steals the title of most experimental, most true to the alternative genre, and most mature in the band’s discography.
Prior to the release of Sacred Hearts Club, Foster the People had established an incredibly unique sound. Torches placed them in the realm of similar artists such as Cage The Elephant, Young the Giant and Two Door Cinema Club. That being said, their sophomore album, SupermodelI, while highly respected in the alternative community, was not nearly as successful due to it’s incredibly similar sound to Torches. It was far too much of a “2.0” situation to have shown any evolution in the band, and in turn, forced the band to produce their third album.
Yet the band managed to capitalize and climb on the coveted pedestal of third albums that alternative bands hold. Sacred Hearts Club proved something about Foster The People that seemed impossible compared to their first two albums; their ability to evolve to all new levels of alternative using sounds of past generations of alternative listeners.
The album opens up with “Pay the Man” which is honestly a good song, but nothing more. The part of this song that actually keeps it above water and not drowning in mediocrity is Foster’s lyricism. This song was definitely experimental, and is blatantly composed that way to a point where it makes you question on track one whether the album is going to be successful or not.
“Doing it for the Money” is arguably one of the best, most well composed Foster the People songs in their discography. This second track, a lot like it’s predecessor, is incredibly experimental both for Foster the People, and also in terms of alternative sounds. The lyricism on this song shines through as well, symbols of poets, war, and capitalism are relevant in every line to the point where listeners are genuinely left having to think and uncover the deeper roots of the track. The actual sound is a healthy mixture of EDM, 80s synth, and still some hidden hints of late-2010s alternative staples. “Doing it for the Money” is a quilt of sounds stitched together almost flawlessly, topped off with Foster’s unique voice and even more unique lyrics.
The third track, “Sit Next to Me”, gathered not only the hearts of alternative listeners, but also had heavy rotation on Top 40 radio. The song itself manages to still be alternative and experimental, all while a “jam song” that could easily be played with windows rolled down on a hot summer day, or a party song everyone jumps around and sings along to. The most entrancing element of this song is by far the chorus. While the verses on this track are definitely a good, light-hearted sound, the build-up to the chorus is one of those adrenaline-rush feelings that makes you want to get up and dance.
The title track, and fourth track on the album, “SHC” is a good song, and the ideal title track on the album. While the song itself is not great, it’s the only track on the album that makes sense in a title position. There’s a laundry list of genres from underlying EDM, pop, alternative, even some rock and synth influences. But for this euphoric, glittering, and modern-grunge album, “SHC” manages to make complete sense as the heart and soul of the entire record.
Skipping to track eight, “Static Space Lovers” may be the most impressive track on the entire album. The song almost holds its own genre, as a weird 80s alt-synth style with glittering keyboard sounds, light drums, and a strong guitar line. The lyrics are the perfect balance of well composed lyricism and powerful, ranging vocals by Foster. The true magic of this song comes from the incredibly light sounds, chorus, and the depth of the song’s production that is overshadowed by the simplicity of the actual sound.
The next track, Lotus Eater, can be compared to the previous track on the album. The chorus kicks on in a more instrumental way, with an overload of synth that’s balanced out by a stable set of Foster’s vocals, this song itself is almost just a huge dump of incredibly bendy and non-related sounds that somehow blend together to sound like a song on warped vinyl, that manages to work with the warped sound. This is one of the few songs on the album, as well, that Foster’s lyricism is still strong yet the meaning behind the track is crystal clear to listeners, conveying the current “hook-up” culture the younger generation lives in, including lyrics such as “we can’t commit to love”, and playing as a means to spread commentary on modern day problems.
I deem the second to last track, “Harden the Paint”, the most mature, well structured track on the entire album. By this point, the band has proved a level of maturity on this album that had yet to be displayed in their discography. From the lyrics, to the structured set-up of this song, “Harden the Paint” takes listeners through a strange, euphoric ride through the true sounds of Sacred Hearts Club and the heart of the actual album. This song genuinely makes you feel like your being transported to another world of neon lights and hazy gazes, yet still maintaining a somber undertone that takes this song far away from the pop scene and more into the band’s roots in alternative, still experimenting with elements of EDM laced in the track.
The final track, “III”, definitely took inspiration from the ending of a movie soundtrack. Up and until this point, the band has taken listeners through various fog filled hallways illuminated by obnoxiously bright purple and red neon lights and practically through a euphoric phase of party-like anthems with advanced lyricism. And finally, after the storm, the waters steady. This track would make little to no sense placed on the album, unless as an introduction, interlude, or final track. The sounds within this song relate farther back into an 80s alternative feel, truly highlighting that sound that has previously been buried deep within other, more modern sounding tracks. The beauty of this final song is found within the most “Foster the People” sound that was clearly displayed on their previous two albums, and is finally evolved to fit perfectly with the sounds of Sacred Hearts Club.
While this album may not hold the largest collection of best Foster the People songs, and may also not be considered to fit into their staple sound in the slightest, this album does something very few artists attempt to achieve: a completely different, new, and evolving sound. The complexity of lyricism on Sacred Hearts Club and the obvious influences of bands from past generations with little to no trace of any prior Foster the People discography is the heart and soul of this album, and the purest form of how alternative music evolves, grows, and eventually influences future bands to come.