One album I kept coming back to this year was the latest album by Fitz and the Tantrums. While these songs may not have broke the band out as big as I would have liked to have seen, they made one heck of a good followup album and sidestepped the sophomore slump curse. More Than Just a Dream is a solid collection of feel-good music and amongst the very best of this year’s noteworthy releases. Here’s my review from earlier this year when the album came out:
Fitz & the gang’s full length debut album Pickin’ Up The Pieces was definitely an anomaly. In the world of alternative pop, somehow a band, led by a singer over 30, broke through as a new band that brings back old feel-good soul and R&B of the late 60s without making it sound old. The album was one of my favorites over the past couple years. I’ve seen a filmed show of theirs that showed me just how much energy the band brings in a live setting. The album was no fluke. These guys are serious about wanting to get the party started. So expectations were high for a follow-up. And they delivered!
More Than Just A Dream takes its title from the lead-off track “Out Of My League”, which looks like it could be the unexpected hit of the summer. Instead of merely copying what worked on the first album, FATT updated their sound slightly. The big echo is still there that gives the band a sort of Phil Spector wall-of-sound feel. But now they’ve incorporated the bounce of new wave, and the two styles meld together perfectly.
Once we get to track two, the anxious “Break the Walls”, we also notice that Noelle Scaggs, the band’s female co-vocalist is featured more heavily on this album. This is a strength that the band is wise to take advantage of. Definitely a strong second song on the album that’s full of sunshine. Track three is “The Walker”, that kicks off with a whistle intro sure to be in a TV commercial at some point. The song is very upbeat and about the insistence to “walk to the beat of my own drum”.
The rockin’ track “Spark” is next, and is one of my favorites. It’s FATT in full party mode, with a singalong chorus and speakers “about to explode”. The band knows how to keep a groove when going a little more rock and a little less funk. So far so good. “6am” follows next and is a little more laid back and sounds more like it could have been on the first album, with the exception of a broken-up keyboard line that sounds a bit new. Noelle also gets a feature on this song. This is one of the songs listed on the “featuring” sticker on the front, and I could easily see this being a hit.
In the second half the band stretches out a bit more. “Fool’s Gold” is something like the band doing their own version of “Firework”. Well in spirit anyways. The vocal harmonies save that from being a bad idea and it really does shine. “Keepin’ Your Eyes Out” sounds a bit more classic, with a bouncy piano line driving it along. “Last Raindrop” takes a bit of a turn in different direction. There’s a synth line that could easily be in a club pop song like “Levels” by Avicii, but above this the deep vibe the guys have going makes you forget that quickly. It’s all about the melodies and the soul here. “House On Fire” starts out with a thump that sounds like the band might be exploring hip hop. Until the dark murky but bluesy groove quickly kicks in. Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick has a unique croon that always brings us back to the familiar when the band branches out.
“The End” takes things back to the bright and shiny band sound again. This one is good but but doesn’t really stick out like some of the others. But when this is the first thing that even approaches filler, that’s a very good thing. “Get Away” takes us into throwback land, mixing the big Motown sound with a little bit of psychedelic late 60s garage britpop. This one is a definite highlight and one to make your feet move. The final track is “Merry Go Round”, a track about the adventure and the spin that life can be. It has some late 60s style possibly Hammond organ driving it along. This is a great note to end on and one of the more memorable tracks from this great album.
The iTunes version, in an attempt to lure you away from getting a physical medium for your money, gives you two additional tracks. First is “Tell Me What Ya Here For”. This one is quite bizarre, mixing a flute melody, a dry vocal with no echo (odd for a FATT track), and kind of comes off like rockabilly with a drum machine. It’s definitely a strange track in comparison, but not a bad one. Just odd. The second bonus track is the Tepr Remix of “Out Of My League”. This one attempts to pair the original song with an electro beat and 80s drum machine effects, while almost wanting to go dubstep but never quite going there. Otherwise it is kind of sparse. This one is an interesting excursion but hardly a necessity. So do not feel shorted if you buy the CD or vinyl and skip the bonus tracks. They aren’t worth the extra money except to the hardcore fan.
This is definitely one of my favorite releases of the year so far. It is simply twelve songs of feel good soulful (mostly) blue-eyed pop. It’s genuine. Soul only works when the musicians truly feel it. These guys do. I really hope these guys continue to have a big breakout year. With material like this, they deserve it.
Get your own copy of More Than Just A Dream HERE:
Check out these great videos and performances from the album:
“Out of My League”:
“Spark” (Live – Guitar Center sessions):
“6am” (Live on KEXP):