THE SOUND OPTION WITH MARCUS HATHCOCK
#9 - Foster the Praise
The dance/pop/rock trio Foster the People has seemingly come out of nowhere with infectious tunes, but does Christian music have such creativity anywhere?
 


Foster the People is the little indie band that could. In just a little more than two years, the dance/pop/rock trio has gone from L.A. obscurity to international sensation. 

The synthesizer-rich, bass thumping upbeat song about high school gun violence, “Pumped Up Kicks,” was largely the catalyst for the band’s success. Written shortly after the group’s formation in 2009, the song went viral on music blogs by early 2010. By mid-2010, Foster the People was signed to an indie record deal, and a year later they released Torches, an album front man Mark Foster said was designed to back up “Pumped Up Kicks.”

Complete with peppy-yet-quirky, futuristic-yet-raw sounds, Torches found enthusiastic audiences all over the world. The album topped the Australian charts, reached No. 8 in the U.S. and topped the U.S. rock charts. Joining “Pumped Up Kicks” were the equally enigmatic “Helena Beat”, “Call It What You Want” and “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls).”

“[N]ice, feel-good songs with clear messages mingle with tracks trapped inside opaque meanings and a decidedly darker outlook on life,” reads a Torches review by Plugged In’s Adam R. Holz. When the album is up, it’s up. When it’s down, it’s really down.

Besides the eerie school shooting soundtrack in “Pumped Up Kicks,” other songs bring negative themes, from self-poisoning to prostitution to suicide to knife threats. There are some good themes, too--such as the ability to change, not giving in to fear, love, friendship and loyalty--but overall, the album is a mixed bag, lyrically.

It’s difficult to find a sound that is in the same league as bands as creative, original and enigmatic as Foster the People. But if any exists in Christian music, it’s the surprisingly stunning sounds coming out of Canadian brothers The Royal Royal

Employing a raw sound juxtaposed with an innovative use of guitars, bass and synths, The Royal Royal presents its own surprising brand of upbeat folk-like stylings. Pastor’s kids Nathan and Gabe Finochio have spent their lifetimes crafting songs that reflect their devotional time with God. 

“There is so much to be thankful for and be creative about,” Nathan Finochio says. “Our prayer for you is that you connect with Jesus through these songs, that our song is clear and heard, and that you are inspired to sing your song.”

These relative newcomers to the Christian music scene have released two songs on iTunes so far--with a third coming Feb. 14. Fans of Foster the People will indeed be pleased.

The band’s debut song, “Praise Him,” immediately catches you with its peppy synth and drums intro, that gives way to the very worshipful lyrics: “To the Amazing One, to the Unchanging One, to Him the anthems raise, lift up your hands of praise.” There’s nothing particularly poetic or unassuming about the song; it’s straight-up, unabashed praise of Jesus. The instrumentation which carries that praise is what’s particularly striking about The Royal Royal. 

Second release “Heartbeats” provides fans of “Pumped Up Kicks” something to love, as the simple, yet heavy drums and bass carry the first verse. There are definitely more “real” instruments driving this song than many Foster the People fans normally experience, but the positive and raw indie vibe is maintained. 

“I was rescued by a supernatural man; I was lifted by a supernatural hand. And you found me, now my heart beats,” resounds this song of gratefulness for salvation. The synth flavorings make their full presence known in the bridge of the song, which simply declares: “In you I am alive.” It begins quietly with just bass, introduces some epic-sounding synth strings, and culminates with a soaring and pulsating synth organ. 

The Royal Royal releases a third single, “Love,” on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. This song, easily the least synth-dependent of the three, features harmonic guitars, the speediest tempo yet, and another dose of unapologetic worship lyrics. “I give, I give my praise to you... your name, your name is high above. Your peace is greater than my fear!” There’s still an indie edge to the song, and the Foster the People instrumentation finds its way in, again, during the bridge, where high pitched synth tones soar as the Finochios sing, “There’s nothing like you, God!”

For unabashed worship with a gripping indie edge, The Royal Royal already has shown it’s a band worth hearing. With only three songs (five if you count their two Christmas tracks) released, the Finochios have certainly provided enough reason for people to want a full-length album.

MORE SOUND OPTIONS...

NRT Senior Editor Marcus Hathcock has been a newspaper reporter, an editor and now Communications Director for East Hill Church in Gresham, OR. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, a CCM group and now is a songwriter and one of the worship leaders at East Hill. Follow his journey at .

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