Personnel: Noelle Scaggs (vocals, tambourine); Michael Fitzpatrick (vocals); James King (saxophone); Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards); John Wicks (drums).
Recording information: Elysian Park.
Photographer: Joseph Cultice.
Fitz & the Tantrums' third full-length record is a fun, exuberant album that finds the Los Angeles outfit moving completely away from their old-school R&B roots and embracing a slick, contemporary dance-pop style. Even on their second album, 2013's More Than Just a Dream, Fitz & the Tantrums were already experimenting with shaking up the '60s Motown influence of their debut with an '80s-style new wave sound built around producer Tony Hoffer's vibrant synths, punchy electric guitars, and even electronic flourishes. It was a savvy move and resulted in a robust production rife with catchy hooks that still maximized the dual lead vocals of Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs. For this album, Fitzpatrick collaborated with songwriter Sam Hollander (Neon Trees, Panic! At the Disco, Katy Perry), whose voguish sensibilities and skill with clubby programmed beats helped shape the album's state-of-the-art vibe. Also helping to sculpt the cutting-edge sound in Fitzpatrick's head is producer Jesse Shatkin (Sia, Tegan & Sara), who helmed eight of the album's cuts with Joel Little (Ellie Goulding, Lorde) and Ricky Reed (Jessie J, Jason Derulo) handling the rest. The result is an unabashed creative transformation that takes the same approach as its predecessor with an even heavier reliance on electronics and EDM-influenced studio aesthetics. Thankfully, Fitz & the Tantrums have lost none of the funky, sweaty, high-energy soul that made their previous work so indelible. If anything, cuts like the lead-off "HandClap" and the cheekily sexy "Complicated," with their crisp beats and laser-horn synths, are a perfect showcase for Fitzpatrick and Scaggs' highly resonant, melodic vocals. And it's not just the booty-shaking numbers that grab you. Cuts like the yearning "Burn It Down" and the lovelorn "Run It" stick in your head and bring to mind the poignant singer/songwriter electronica of artists like Imogen Heap and Frankmusik. Ultimately, while Fitz & the Tantrums' contemporary dance-pop sound is decades away from the aesthetic of their debut, it works, and it's hard to imagine fans not wanting to take make the leap with them. ~ Matt Collar