A recent New York Times Magazine feature tackled the phenomenon of 21st-century soul revival. Included in a list of backward-looking, vinyl-fetishizing retro enthusiasts “claiming [soul] music as their own” is an upstart L.A. outfit playfully dubbed Fitz & The Tantrums.
Fitz is frontman Michael Fitzpatrick, who, with a wink and a nod, steers this throwback combo through steamy struts, delicious breaks and in-the-pocket grooves. He’s joined on the frontline by bombshell sidekick and backup singer Noelle Scaggs.
Hearkening back to R&B’s ’60s heyday, the flutes tooting on the title-track of their Dangerbird debut Pickin’ Up the Pieces recall Motown high-water marks like “Tears of a Clown,” while the organ buzzing through “MoneyGrabber” could’ve been swiped from the Stax Museum. Fitzpatrick’s vocals call to mind Daryl Hall, who was so won over by the band, he booked them on a recent episode of Live from Daryl’s House. That FATT’s album includes a tune called “Rich Girls” is surely no coincidence.
Though these guys walk the walk and talk the talk, they mercifully lack the self-seriousness that burdens too many of their peers. Witness “Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” a perky piano trot juxtaposed with a bitter missive to a cheating lover. It’s Fitzpatrick’s talent for tweaking classic modes that places this act ahead of the pack.