You know, the organ is an instrument just not heard very often on pop albums these days. And then what’s this? No guitar?!? While this may sound like a bad polka album in the making, Fitz and the Tantrums have a style that doesn’t require the typical pop instrumentation and styling. Their throwback 60s soulful sound calls for an old school mix of stellar vocals, a mean sax and some smart drumming.

The Los Angeles sextet’s debut LP, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” shimmies and shakes with retro vibes, cashing in on a sound lead singer, Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick describes as “Motown and soul-influenced indie pop.” Fitz is supported by the dazzling vocal power of Noelle Scaggs, who has lent her voice to support the likes of Dilated Peoples and the Black Eyed Peas in the past. A grip of talented musicians round out the group lineup to complete their neo-soul sound.

Out of the gate, track one, “Breakin’ the Chains of Love,” hums with a sunny, instantly likable groove. Fitz’s silky croons are complimented by Scaggs’ sweet howls for this toe-tapper of a number. The theme of women, money and break-ups continues with “Pickin’ Up the Pieces.” This tune rings with raw throwback vibes in a good way, and allows Scaggs powerhouse vocals to soar. The highlight of the album comes in at number four with “MoneyGrabber.” I dare you to not bob along or shimmy a little to the infectious chorus of “Don’t come back/ anytime/ you’ve already run my dry/ this is your payback/ moneygrabber.”

This album is certainly not offering anything new, in fact, that kinda seems like the point. Down to their stage performances with sharp suits and sparkly dresses, everything about Fitz and the Tantrums is throwback. This could come off campy or cheesy, but they manage to keep it classy, fun and retro without crossing into camp.

The album is totally listenable and there are no tracks that could be considered duds, but the album is very one tone over all. More diversity and a little more edge, and they will be in the perfect niche. They are joining the ranks of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Mark Ronson and even Amy Wino with their new vision of pop soul. And even with nothing new, and perhaps not a perfect first effort, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces’” overall energy and charisma makes it just so darn likeable.

Words: Lori Bartlett

Artist: Fitz & The Tantrums
Album: “Pickin’ Up the Pieces”
Label: Dangerbird
Release Date: August 24, 2010

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