Album Review: Fitz and The Tantrums – More Than Just A Dream2 min read
For a band called ‘The Tantrums’, things come together rather calamity-free for Fitz and the rest of the gang. Headed by Michael Fitzpatrick, the band is the culmination of a few friends making phone calls, and before they knew it they had a diverse sextet at rehearsal number one, with Fitzpatrick believing they “could have played a show that night”. That’s a little too crazy, so instead they booked their first show for a whole week after said rehearsal. Fitz certainly likes to bring out the best of the band, an endeavour no different for their latest offering, More Than Just a Dream.
After this fateful forming in 2008, the LA band delivered their first EP in early 2009, before their debut album Pickin’ Up the Pieces the next year. A self-described record of “soul-influenced indie pop”, it blended elements of 60’s soul and R&B with plenty of horns and keyboards. They opted to stay away from guitars, aiming to create a big sound in their own way. The album earned them the mantle of a “band to watch” by Rolling Stone. Rather than revisiting this successful soundscape, More Than Just a Dream sees the band probe into full-blown pop, infusing elements of 80’s electronica.
The opening track Out of My League establishes the alteration of their palette – as well as the titular line – through electronic rhythms and a huge chorus. The piano-led Break the Walls flaunts pure pop melodies in the male/female vocal dynamic, with guest co-writer Sia Furler’s touch evident in the catchy chorus as well as Noelle’s voice. The Walker exhibits a very 80’s influence with electro synth leading into whistly bridges. Spark is immediately infectious, displaying producer Tony Hoffer’s (M83, Beck, Phoenix) ability to create radio-ready charmers, full of synths and programmed beats beneath a shouty chorus.
The guys don’t abandon their roots altogether though, with Keepin Our Eyes Out and House On Fire recalling their Motown style with driving piano lines, darker moods and almost gospel backup singing and hooting. 6AM and Last Raindrop however display the fresh direction with a big fat 80’s wandering bass line and glitzy synth, and 90’s techno/dance beats respectively. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the reduction of any horn elements, seemingly buried beneath the production, although Get Away has a jazzy, soulful vibe with a muted horn section, paired with uncharacteristic jangly guitar. Final number MerryGoRound brings another huge catchy chorus, with an alt-rock and synth backing, sounding a touch like recent The Killers.
Fans of Fitz and The Tantrums need not worry that they’ve changed too much; they’ve merely diversified the approach to their songcraft, generating an eclectic sound rather than a dull duplication. Audacious in attempting purer pop, they deliver contagious tunes whilst retaining the band’s natural soul.