We in Death by Robot want to share with you some of our thoughts on the music out there in the world. The goal is to give you, our listeners, a little insight into where we’re coming from when we write, maybe help you to stumble upon bands you’ve not heard before, or maybe just give you something to read when you sit down to take your morning poop, who knows.
I’m Raine. I’ve been placed in charge of this and future reviews, and I’ll do my best to write them consistently. Sporadic is more my style, but for you guys, I’ll make the effort. This first one is on the now barely topical record from Foster the People, Supermodel.
I’m not going to try and finesse this: I really like the album. Rolling stone did not, but what do they know. Just kidding, but I do think they’re way off the mark by saying the tracks borrow heavily from bands like The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, and Bon Iver, but have “no conviction,” “no ambition,” and “no campfire warmth,” respectively.
This review will turn into an essay if I go into a lot of detail per track, but let me take you on a journey through a few of them and show you what I think Rolling Stone missed.
There are three years between this album and “Torches” (Foster the People’s first record), and the first track acknowledges that with the perfect intro. It starts off kind of muffled in the distance, slowly getting louder and a little more clear before it completely stops - and launches in a sound that is totally different from the previous record. “Here’s what you’ve been waiting for,” Mark Foster is saying. The tune is heavily layered rhythmically by unique instruments like bells, eighties-inspired synths, and even hand claps, combined with a syncopated drum groove to create a song that doesn’t sound like typical pop at all, maybe not even North American. The lyrics also ask a great question: “Are You Who You Want to Be?” I like it when the hook is a thinker like that. Unfortunately, the ending doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the intro.
I’m going to skip ahead a few songs, but rest assured that I like them all. “Nevermind” has a lot going on, layering xylophones, pianos, trumpets, guitars, and crazy effects that are over my head. The melody in the verse floats slowly over it, digging in enough to the groove of the chorus to make it feel like a slow dance with a lot of moves. The rhythm in the guitar pushes that great groove just enough to make it feel great. My favourite lyrics on this album are both on this song. Foster sings “Yeah it’s hard to find the truth, In this post-modernist view, Where absolutes are seen as relics, And laughed out of the room.” I find that to be very apt. The other is the second half of that same verse: “Cause my mind’s a minefield of the wretched, It’s honestly deceptive piece.” That’s great imagery, irony, and rhyme, all in one. Although I think the lyrics across the album are generally driving at a point in their specific songs, they sometimes seem disconnected from verse to verse. Too many side stories and shifting perspectives for me; I prefer story-telling in the style of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. There are, however, many lyrical moments that really grab my attention.
‘A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon.’ Like most of the record (excluding Goats in Trees and Fire Escape, which are comparatively bare) there are many instruments and rhythms happening. Mark Foster has an enormous range, and can change the tone of voice quite dramatically. How neat. I love the heavily-distorted bass with it’s creepy descending line beneath the choir of Mark Fosters screaming about injustices and finding yourself. I think “Not being a dick” is also a theme in this song.
I’ve listened to ‘Supermodel’ many times, but find myself picking up on new things, both conceptually and musically, that I hadn’t considered before with each re-listen. Not all of my reviews will be so glowing, but this is an album I genuinely recommend.There’s so much more to say about the record, but the most important thing is that it’s worth listening to.