Fitz & the Tantrums - More Than Just a Dream

Fitz & the Tantrums
Fitz & the Tantrums More Than Just a Dream.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

On the surface, L.A.-based band Fitz & the Tantrums looks like any other indie pop band that’s trying to ride Maroon 5’s coattails of success. There’s this visual trademark they explore that feels like a great leap into the haute culture glory days of Chic, while adopting Justin Timberlake’s über cool “Suit & Tie” decorum. The style fits the L.A. band perfectly, but it’s the music that definitely steals the show. When the band dropped their Pickin’ Up the Pieces debut, out came a masterful sound that blended the pop of Motown and the rawness of Stax together. The uniqueness of that gave birth to a retro soul revamp perfectly fit for the 21st century. Fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Mayer Hawthorne scurried to hip tunes like “Dear Mr. President” and the deliciously scored “MoneyGrabber,” turning them the L.A. band into overnight sensations.

On the surface, L.A.-based band Fitz & the Tantrums looks like any other indie pop band that’s trying to ride Maroon 5’s coattails of success. There’s this visual trademark they explore that feels like a great leap into the haute culture glory days of Chic, while adopting Justin Timberlake’s über cool “Suit & Tie” decorum. The style fits the L.A. band perfectly, but it’s the music that definitely steals the show. When the band dropped their Pickin’ Up the Pieces debut, out came a masterful sound that blended the pop of Motown and the rawness of Stax together. The uniqueness of that gave birth to a retro soul revamp perfectly fit for the 21st century. Fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Mayer Hawthorne scurried to hip tunes like “Dear Mr. President” and the deliciously scored “MoneyGrabber,” turning them the L.A. band into overnight sensations. You’ve probably heard their music rampantly used in a many TV ad (T-Mobile, The Laughing Cow) or sitcom (Criminal Minds, Desperate Housewives).

Three years later after their 2010 debut, the six-piece band – fronted by Michael Fitzpatrick – picks up the pace on their follow-up LP, More Than Just a Dream. Right from the start, the band adopts a ‘80s throwback approach, fusing new wave synths and loud vocal echoes into “Out of My League.” It’s a bit of a detour from their old-fashioned debut, but it marvelously exposes their yearning to inject soul into a healthy kaleidoscope of genres while also keeping a lock on their three-minute radio-ready dispersions. You can sense that formula percolating inside “The Walker,” which inserts a catchy Andy Griffith-like whistle right before a sunny ‘60’s pop melody merges with psychedelic soul. But, dig deep into the soundtrack and you will witness the ultimate earful of ‘80’s pop confetti and the hip re-definition of the soul standard taking place on “6 A.M.,” a marvelous groove supported by Madonna-ish riffs and a belting duet with the band’s alternate vocalist, Noelle Scaggs. “Fools Gold” is just as awe-inspiring, so is “The End” with its Motown-ish piano-driven verses and sing-a-long chorus. “Tell Me What Ya Hear For,” “Get Away” and “Spark” turns up the volume on fun, funky episodes. By the time they wrap up the disc with an old school mix of “More Than Just a Dream” – akin to a mesh of Nu Shooz’s “I Can’t Wait” and Hall & Oates’s “Adult Education,” you’ve uncovered a collection full of retro splendor. And after repetitive plays, the fun never gets boring.

The good part about the trek is that it never feels like a typical time warp or a rehash of nostalgic samples. Without one dry track in sight, the content aboard More Than Just a Dream has been dreamt up in a laboratory of careful experimentalism, which exposes the band’s exceptional teamwork as song craftsmen and the euphoric production skills culled by M83 producer Tony Hoffer. If Janelle Monáe didn’t drop her Electric Lady dazzler this year, I would probably be staring at the best R&B/soul album of 2013. Enthusiastically recommended.

By J. Matthew Cobb

 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

Leave a comment!