100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #65: “Coming of Age” by Foster the People

The song at #65 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Coming of Age” by Los Angeles-based alternative pop-rock band Foster the People. Though I really liked their debut single “Pumped Up Kicks” a lot (it appears later on this list), it was their beautiful, introspective song “Coming of Age” that made me fall in love with them, and they’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since. I saw them in concert at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium in November 2014, and a photo I took of them has remained as my Twitter header pic since I created my account in August 2015. A few months after creating my account, I was pleasantly shocked when Foster the People followed me back, most likely because band front man Mark Foster saw his band pictured on my Twitter page.

Hard as it is to believe, prior to hearing “Coming of Age” upon its release in January 2014, I was unaware of any of their other songs besides “Pumped Up Kicks”. I’ve previously mentioned my musical awakening when I discovered the Billboard Alternative Chart in late summer of 2013, and when I saw “Coming of Age” appear on that chart, I naturally had to check it out, and instantly loved it. I then searched for more of their music and discovered their fantastic debut album Torches, which in addition to “Pumped Up Kicks” was filled with great songs like “Helena Beat”, Houdini”, “Call it What You Want” and “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)”. When Foster the People released their second album Supermodel that March, I purchased it along with Torches, and had both on repeat for the rest of 2014.

“Coming of Age” was inspired by Foster’s experience and introspection after two years of touring with the band, and was actually the last song to be written and recorded for Supermodel. He told XFM London: “Lyrically it is almost a confession. It’s about having a moment of clarity…after the storm of touring for two years and my life drastically changing. It was kind of the first breath I had to really look around and see that there were some things that happened during that period with my friends and with my loved ones, with the people that are close to me and with myself as well. It’s about growing up.

Musically, the song is melodically complex and stunning, with swirling synths, haunting piano and gnarly guitars layered over Cubbie Fink’s thumping bass line and Mark Pontius’ aggressive percussion. I love the piano movement in the bridge, as well as Foster’s soaring heartfelt vocals that at times seem to channel his idol Brian Wilson.

The song was a hit on the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts, but unbelievably, did not chart on the Hot 100.

And here’s a cool time-lapse video showing the artwork for Supermodel, designed by Dutch artist and musician Young & Sick, being painted on the side of a building in downtown Los Angeles. With assistance from artist Daniel Lahoda, street artist Leba, and American graffiti art groups LA Freewalls and Vyal, the mural was painted over a period of 12 days, beginning the night of December 29, 2013 to the morning of January 9, 2014. Measuring 148 ft. by 126 ft., it was one of the largest murals ever created. Unfortunately, due to legal issues with both the building owners and the City of Los Angeles, the mural was later painted over.

HOUSE OF HARM – EP Review: “Coming of Age”

house of harm ep

It may be 2019, but the lasting legacy of 1980s post-punk and new wave (and all its sub genres) is very much alive and well, probably due in part to the fact it sounds so awesome! I know of several artists and bands whose sound is heavily influenced by the electronics-dominant music of bands like New Order, The Cure and Depeche Mode, to name some of the biggest acts from that period. One such band that I have the pleasure of featuring today is House of Harm, a duo from Boston consisting of Michael Rocheford on lead vocals & Cooper Leardi on guitar and synths. With just a casual listen, they could be unfairly labeled a New Order or Depeche Mode cover band, but a closer listen reveals the guys to be skilled songwriters and composers, crafting outstanding songs that easily hold their own against the aforementioned bands.

House of Harm released their excellent debut EP Demo in June 2017, followed later that year with a darkwave single “Isolator”, and in November 2018, they dropped their second EP Coming of Age, featuring four gorgeous tracks. First up is “Past Life“, a brooding but beautiful song that really channels Depeche Mode both instrumentally and vocally. The guys employ lush swirling synths, razor sharp percussion, and layers of richly textured, chiming guitars to create a magnificent shimmering soundscape.  Rocheford’s arresting vocals convey a sense of urgency and sad resignation as he laments “Let the past lay down tonight, I want it to, I want it to. Let the summer light catch your eyes. There’s someone new, someone new“.

About the track’s meaning, Rocheford told the webzine Vanyaland “The song is about spending time with someone you were formerly involved with and the struggles that come along with that.” Leardi added his feelings about the song: “‘Past Life’ was one of those songs that came to us like a lightbulb flash. All the elements were there. We were coming down from playing a string of shows, completely exhausted, and in one afternoon we wrote and recorded the whole song. It felt wrong to go back and change the magic we got that day, so the version you hear is just that. I can’t deny that there was a certain flavor in the air when we were working on it, something that reminds me of an ecstasy-fueled club in Ibiza or something… I think it puts us in a place and time, and that time is right now. I feel as though the song is there to say ‘We’re House Of Harm and this is what we’re about’.”

Always” is an updated version of a track that originally appeared on Demo. Leardi’s exuberant jangly guitars are the highlight here, accompanied by sparkling synths and wildly crashing cymbals. Rocheford fervently sings “You always keep it still. You always speak until. You always turn it around and smile in pain.” The marvelous title track “Coming of Age” features a powerful driving beat and a deeply resonant mix of swirling and moody synths that create a dramatic backdrop for Rocheford’s impassioned, soaring vocals as he implores to a former loved one: “And would you still run at the sight of me? And do you still you feel that you’ve thrown it away? And would you still lie, if I ever told you? And would you still say it’s a coming of age?” “Valentine” sounds a bit similar to “Coming of Age”, but with a frenetic beat that’s classic post-punk/new wave. If this bouncy, high-energy song doesn’t get you up and moving, nothing will.

Coming of Age is a wonderful little EP, and if you’re a fan of 80s post-punk/new wave, you’ll like this record. The arrangement and production are flawless, and the music and vocals sound clear and perfectly balanced. My only criticism is that with just four tracks, it feels rather like a teaser, leaving me wanting more. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as I eagerly await what House of Harm will grace our earbuds with next.

Connect with House of Harm:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes