Foster the People’s immensely popular 2011 debut Torches masked disillusion with a surface-only cheeriness. Three years and mountains of mainstream hype later, lead singer Marc Foster appears more comfortable directly venting his frustrations. “I’m bored of the game/ And too tired to rage,” the former ad-jingle writer admits on “Coming of Age,” Supermodel‘s first single, catchiest track and lone cut gleeful enough to warrant consideration for soundtracking another KIA ad. To be sure, the L.A. rock band’s latest effort is still nearly as maximalist as its predecessor, built on outsize hooks, sky-high synths and Foster’s malleable falsetto. But Foster has let his guard down in a way his band’s introductory album could never allow.
It’s still too easy for them to rely on derivative material, nowhere more apparent than on the flaccid Afrobeat bounce of opener “Are You What You Wanna Be?” and the MGMT-pillaging “Best Friend.” But when they color just outside these lines, it becomes apparent what this technically adept but still slightly faceless band could become. On the Flaming Lips-esque freakout “A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon,” Foster’s voice taking on a menacing quality (“Open your eyes and share this burden somehow”). On “The Truth,” he confesses “I’ve been floating within your walls of opinion.” He might feel stuck in his lane, but he doesn’t need to: The hints of more challenging material popping up on Supermodel beckon like an off-ramp.