Review: Fitz & the Tantrums - "Pickin' Up the Pieces"

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Fitz & the Tantrums

Pickin' Up the Pieces

By Grady

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I’m not exactly sure what it is about 2010 that has altered my musical preferences, but I’ve been ambushed by a slew of pop releases this year. Band of Horses, MGMT, the Young Evils, they've all invaded my CD player, iPod and turntable this year, and now it’s time to add another album to that list – Fitz & The Tantrums’ Pickin’ Up The Pieces.

I just happened to stumble upon this record one day at Easy Street when I was looking for something new to play, and the album cover intrigued me enough to give it a listen. It’s always great when chances like these pay off. Originally intended as a neo-soul solo project, Fitz & The Tantrums has evolved into a septet that is led by songwriter/founder, Michael Fitzpatrick and his old college friend, James King. Now incorporating a horn section and back-up singer Noelle Scaggs, the band is poised for a breakout year! Their style of pop/R&B/soul is refreshing, much like that of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, but with the lyrical brilliance of Hall & Oates. Scaggs’ effect on the record is pretty impressive as well; her sweet melodies and backing vocals bring a Supremes feel to many of the songs.

From the opening cut, you immediately hear influences from classic Motown and Stax recordings. The album was formed around Fitzpatrick’s purchase of an old church organ and with Jamie King’s infusion of a horn section the album really achieves the old-school feel of a bygone era of soul music.

Anyone who has gone through a one-sided break-up can completely identify with this record, starting off with the opening track “Breakin’ the Chains of Love,” where we hear Fitzpatrick chasing after his ex of 40 days, hoping she hasn’t found another love, repeating the line “‘cause I know that baby, you’re mine.” On the title track, Fitz explains how he’s tired of loneliness, but that’s the price of love and the only thing to do is to pick up and move on. This song also marks the first time we get to hear Scaggs in a duet setting, not just singing the back-ups in the chorus. “Moneygrabber” is a funky tune with lyrics describing the frustrations of letting someone back into your life just to have them rob you blind and force you to close the book on them for good. “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” is all about turning the tables on the ex.

While most of the cuts on the record revolve around the trials and tribulations of relationships, one track differs from the norm. “Dear Mr. President” is about the effects of the recession and the tough decisions families have to make - a plea to the president to “put your foot down” and help out those most in need. “News 4 U” will be the identifiable cut for this band, mainly because it’s being used in the promotional commercials for ABC’s Desperate Housewives, but also because it’s a great song with a catchy chorus.

Last year, I tipped many of my friends off to the Heavy before their Super Bowl introduction via KIA, and I’m trying my best to do the same for Fitz & The Tantrums. Do yourself the favor, go to your local record store and pick this album up!