When we first heard Fitz and the Tantrums' Pickin' Up The Pieces, we found ourselves at an incredible medium between Motown soul and a decidedly modern aesthetic. It wasn't just their lack of guitar, emphasis on the saxophone, or the engulfing harmonizing capabilities of Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs that left us in awe. It was their merciless energy that left the strongest impression. That entire album gave 2010 the breath of air it desperately needed and established their place on the charts with "MoneyGrabber" for the 6-piece wonder group.
They set their standards high in terms of structure, and were inevitably categorized as the inclusively retro delivery crew, here to counteract the electronically infused sounds of the radio. But as most artists do, they truly reached their comfort zone and established their sound on their sophomore effort. In The Tantrums' case, they weren't here to supply us with just nostalgia and appreciation. For their second album, More Than Just A Dream, the obvious vintage sensations were left out. Instead of embracing the tenderness the 1960s had to offer, the band looked towards a sharper, heavier electronic sound more related to the 80s than anything else.
In lieu of their musical expansion, it's easy to see that the band is attempting to gain commercial success. They've replaced the tambourine style beats with a dated electronic synth. In this particular case, 'dated' doesn't does not necessarily translate as a negative. On "Break the Walls", Fitzpatrick cries "I travel the unknown. I see the truth / I beg the freedom will carry me." That freedom seems to work out for the band on this track. We're not being fed over-churned tunes or auto-tunage by any means. Their expressiveness is simply shed in a newer light.
"The Walker" has an epic movement of combining whistles, electro synths, saxophone, and hand claps to communicate that energy from their last album. We see a glimpse of soul here, and I chose to ignore the unimaginative lyric "I walk to the sound of my drum." On the other hand, "Spark" embodies a stadium-like precision, but it goes against what Fitzpatrick originally detested: guitars. He claimed he was sick of them, but their presence on this album confirms the band's forward-thinking ability. They are opening previously closed doors. As a band, they are absolutely evolving.
Their single "Out Of My Hand" definitely oozes direct Tony Hoffer influence, with a hint of Beck attitude. Tracks like "House on Fire" have a crazed, almost sloppy percussion opening, which sounds a bit random. Nevertheless, it's catchy and has serious tang. Here and there, the record finds empty moments filled with video game-like bleeps, which can feel repetitive if you're listening to the album through its entirety.
Disregarding my love for their first album, More Than Just A Dream is worth listening to. I will say that the notable presence of the saxophone is noticeably missed, as well as Noelle Scagg's magical tambourine moments. But, as their sound evolves, the truthful harmony between Fitzpatrick and Scagg is untainted, and surprisingly fits into electro synth moods. They've taken their spirit and tastefully rewired it. Any great band must rely on these transitional moments to find their groove, and More Than Just A Dream is just another step in the passage of Fitz and the Tantrums.