Torches (album)

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Torches foster the people.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 23, 2011
Foster the People chronology
Foster the People
Singles from Torches
  1. "Pumped Up Kicks"
    Released: January 3, 2011
  2. "Helena Beat"
    Released: July 26, 2011[2]
  3. "Call It What You Want"
    Released: December 2, 2011[3]
  4. "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)"
    Released: January 10, 2012[4]
  5. "Houdini"
    Released: May 15, 2012[5]

Torches is the debut studio album by American band Foster the People, released on May 23, 2011 by Startime International and Columbia Records. In 2010, the group parlayed the popularity of frontman Mark Foster's song "Pumped Up Kicks" into a record deal with Startime International, and wrote the album to back the song's popularity. "Pumped Up Kicks" proved to be a sleeper hit; after receiving significant airplay on modern rock stations, the song crossed-over onto contemporary hit radio and became one of 2011's most popular songs. Four additional singles were released from the album: "Helena Beat", "Call It What You Want", "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)", and "Houdini", which had previously been released as a promotional single in the United Kingdom prior to the album's release.[6][7][8]

Torches received generally favorable reviews from critics and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album. The record peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 in the US and number one on the ARIA Albums Chart in Australia. It has been certified platinum in Australia and the US,[9][10] Philippines, and Canada.[11]

Background and recording[edit]

Not long after the band formed, frontman Mark Foster wrote and recorded the song "Pumped Up Kicks" while working as a jingle writer at Mophonics. The song proved to be the band's breakthrough in 2010, going viral,[12] earning the band a booking at the South by Southwest music festival in March 2010,[13][14] and garnering attention from music industry professionals. Brent Kredel and Brett Williams were hired to co-manage the group and helped them obtain a record deal with Columbia Records imprint Startime International in May 2010.[15]

After the record deal was finalized, Kredel said, "The focus was to stop everything and not work on any marketing or touring, but to make an album that backed up 'Pumped Up Kicks.'" To avoid the band becoming overexposed, Startime allowed the group to pace themselves and not rush an album that would cash in on the popularity of the song. Isaac Green of Startime said, "You can't control everything, but you can be meticulous about the music." From July to September 2010, the group wrote new material that would appear on Torches, and they chose Paul Epworth, Rich Costey, Tony Hoffer and Greg Kurstin to co-produce the record with Mark Foster.[15]


The cover artwork was designed by Young & Sick (formerly known as Japayork), a friend of Mark Foster's who was interested in doing illustrations for an album.[16][17] The group's drummer Mark Pontius explained the origins of the artwork:[18]

We argued about that artwork forever. I think I was the only one who didn't like it. I love his artwork but I had a different image in my mind for the record cover. But I ended up being happy that I lost the fight because it ended up that the characters on the front became this whole world that we ended up including in our live show and on our merch and our website.


"Call It What You Want" was also used in the soundtrack of the football video game by EA Sports, FIFA 12. Houdini appears in the soundtrack to SSX. The song "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)" is prominently featured in two Nissan commercials titled "Headroom" and "Legroom." [19][20] The song was also used in the soundtrack of the racing game Forza Horizon. The music video for "Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)" was featured in stereoscopic 3D on the Nintendo 3DS's application Nintendo Video. Foster the People appeared as the musical guest on the October 8, 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live, playing "Pumped Up Kicks" and "Houdini". Kenny G appeared as a guest performer on the latter song.[21][22]

Through the iTunes Store, the album is available with the bonus track "Broken Jaw" (which was released as a Record Store Day single limited to 1,000 copies). Best Buy features a CD with the bonus tracks "Love" and "Chin Music for the Unsuspecting Hero". Certain independent record stores included free remix EPs with the purchase of CD or vinyl.[23]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[26]
The Austin Chronicle4/5 stars[27]
Entertainment WeeklyB[28]
The Guardian2/5 stars[29]
Los Angeles Times2.5/4 stars[30]
Q4/5 stars[33]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[34]

Torches received generally favorable reviews. According to review aggregator website Metacritic, it received an average critic score of 69 out of 100, based on 20 reviews.[25] AllMusic described the album as a "catchy, electro-lite dance-pop that fits nicely next to such contemporaries as MGMT and Phoenix."[26] Rolling Stone said, "their debut is genre-juggling, bedroom-dance-floor magic cut with moody-boy lyrics".[34] U2 guitarist The Edge singled Torches out as one of his favorite records, calling it "a very interesting new album. Very 21st century pop, but it's beautifully made and thrilling. You see, we're always interested in the new thing..."[36] Elton John also said that "Torches" was one of his favorites and one of the best albums of 2011.[citation needed] Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Buck Dharma stated on That Metal Show that Torches was one of his favorite new albums.[citation needed]

The album was nominated for the 2012 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, while "Pumped Up Kicks" received a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.[37]

Commercial performance[edit]

Torches debuted at number eight on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 33,000 copies in the first week. On April 28, 2014, the album was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales of a million copies in the United States.[38]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics are written by Mark Foster; all music is composed by Foster, except where noted.

1."Helena Beat"
2."Pumped Up Kicks"Foster4:00
3."Call It What You Want"
4."Don't Stop (Color on the Walls)"
  • Kurstin
  • Foster
6."I Would Do Anything for You"
  • Costey
  • Foster
8."Life on the Nickel" (Epworth, Foster)
  • Epworth
  • Foster
9."Miss You" (Zach Heiligman, Foster)
  • Kurstin
  • Foster
  • Kurstin
  • Foster
Total length:38:24
iTunes edition
11."Broken Jaw"5:29
Total length:44:01
Best Buy exclusive edition
12."Chin Music for the Unsuspecting Hero"3:25
Total length:45:30
Japan edition
11."Broken Jaw"5:36
13."Chin Music for the Unsuspecting Hero"3:25
14."Pumped Up Kicks" (The Knocks Speeding Bullet Remix)4:39
15."Houdini" (RAC Remix)3:56
Australian tour edition – CD 2
1."Broken Jaw"5:29
3."Chin Music for the Unsuspecting Hero"3:24
4."Pumped Up Kicks" (The Knocks Speeding Bullet Remix)4:39
5."Houdini" (RAC Remix)3:56
6."Helena Beat" (Lenno Extended Remix)5:10
7."Call It What You Want" (Treasure Fingers Pre-Party Remix Radio Edit)3:41


Foster the People
Additional musicians



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[62] Platinum 70,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[63] Platinum 80,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[64] Gold 10,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[65] Gold 50,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[66] Gold 10,000*
United States (RIAA)[67] 2× Platinum 2,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


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