Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fitz & The Tantrums Dance Into The 80s

On their 2011 debut, Pickin’ Up The Pieces, Fitz & The Tantrums groove-tastically explored the world of 60s & 70s soul, mixing the classic sounds of Motown, Stax & 70’s R&B with a dash of New Wave. It was a unique variation on retro-soul, and the album was one of the best discs of its year. On their second full-length release, More Than Just A Dream, the group fast-forwards into the 1980s. This time around, there are big beats, synths & lots of percussion in the forefront. The songs are a mix of 80s dance, bouncy pop & New Wave, with a little less focus on the neo-soul. The sound of the 80s is all over this record on songs like “Break The Walls,” “The Walker” and “Get Away.” Welcome back to the 1980s via the 21st century, music fans.

Leader Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick & vocalist Noelle Scaggs still have the power, though they occasionally get lost in the “wall of sound” production by Tony Hoffer, who’s also worked with Beck and Supergrass. Fitzpatrick has said in interviews he didn’t want to do Pickin’ Up The Pieces 2 and cover the same ground. I find it admirable that the band went in a different musical direction this time out. It’s a largely successful endeavor, though a couple of the songs are a bit weaker lyrically. Still, there are standout tracks like “Fools Gold,” “Merry Go Round,” and "Out Of My League." The band is as tight as ever, laying down some excellent grooves. This is one record that’s ready made for dancing, and for being spun in the clubs.

The group didn’t completely abandon the blue-eyed soul, as evidenced on songs like “Keeping Our Eyes Out” and the fantastic “6AM.” The best tracks here have great pop songcraft, catchy choruses, dance rhythms to spare and even some interesting electronic textures courtesy of producer Hoffer. This is an album that invites multiple listens, and grows on you each time. I have to say I liked it even more on repeat spins, as I relaxed into its grooves & sonic pleasures. And I bet that these tunes are going to sound amazing live as the group tours this summer. More Than Just A Dream is now available in stores & online. The iTunes Deluxe Edition of the album includes some extra tracks.

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