Fitz and the Tantrums ‘More Than Just a Dream’ – Album Review
Following the release of their 2010 debut album, ‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces,’ L.A.-based Fitz and the Tantrums became a band to watch. The critically acclaimed record yielded a string of successful singles and guest spots on a variety of late night talk shows, including ‘Kimmel’ and ‘Leno.’ Unsurprisingly, though, some questioned how long the band could maintain the retro soul-pop direction they established on ‘Pieces.’
On their sophomore album, ‘More Than Just a Dream,’ Fitz and the Tantrums prove it’s possible. The six-member outfit keep their sound fresh by throwing in influences other than the ‘60s Motown soul that dominated ‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces.’ Here, they revisit other decades, mixing in ‘80s synths and ‘90s hip-hop beats. By diversifying their approach, Fitz create a sound that doesn’t get dulled or play like a mere gimmick.
Co-vocalist and primary songwriter Michael Fitzpatrick’s past experience as a studio engineer alongside producer Tony Hoffer (Depeche Mode, Phoenix) give ‘More Than Just a Dream’ the same shiny, well-oiled-machine quality that was present on the band’s debut album. At times, it's a little too perfect, and some have called the Fitz sound formulaic.
But on 'More Than Just a Dream,' the result is a handful of incredibly catchy, radio-ready songs like the record’s first single, ‘Out of My League.’ The opening track locks in on a groove, something Fitz and the Tantrums are clearly very accomplished at. The intermittent claps and layered keyboards make for a fun song sure to get more than a few feet tapping.
Tracks like ‘6AM’ soar due to the not-to-be-ignored partnership between Fitzpatrick and fellow lead vocalist Noelle Scaggs. It plays out like a conversation between the two singers and feels like an '80s dance-pop version of Hall & Oates’ ‘She’s Gone.' Likewise, ‘Break the Walls’ and ‘Spark’ are bound to become fan-favorites with their shout-it-out choruses.
However, ‘The End’ and ‘Merry Go Round’ are too calculated. The collective “heys” and “ohs” are a bit lifeless, and Fitzpatrick and Scaggs don’t shine quite as brilliantly as they do on other tracks. In these moments, the band sounds burned out on their own creation, which gives credence to the critics who say Fitz’s retro-pop is overwrought and tired.
But more often than not, Fitz challenge themselves and push it in new directions. Drawing from a multitude of influences, the band creates a new-enough experience to keep listeners interested. ‘More Than Just a Dream’ proves the group can find longevity in their eclectic sound.