The ever-fashionable and ever-retro sextet returns with its sophomore album, More Than Just a Dream. Known for their smart indie-pop-soul sounds that mix genres and traverse generations—from the ‘60s to the ‘80s and beyond—Fitz and the Tantrums bubble with enthusiasm and joy, tempered with touches of soul.
While More Than Just a Dream starts off with the energy and style that Fitz and the Tantrums have become known for in their shows and previous album, the band seems to struggle to sustain it; they start off running strong, but end up wheezing in the dust.
The first track, the toe-tapping “Out of My League,” brims with infectious energy. The fast tempo, background crooning and vintage bopping culminate in an all-around effervescence which constantly seems about to bubble over.
The anthemic “Break the Walls” also glows; reaching beyond its own electronic-pop and grazing its fingers against the more soulful elements of the band’s sound, the song has Noelle Scaggs singing, “Give me a sledgehammer/And give me strength/Watch the world come tumbling down” with a power and delicacy that brilliantly rounds out Michael Fitzpatrick’s vocals. With a chorus that sounds like its own gospel, infused with soulful echoes, “Break the Walls” is jubilant, a song that throws up its arms in celebration and triumph.
“The Walker,” a whistle-blowing pop tune, doesn’t have nearly as much heart or soul as the preceding tracks, but is quirky and entertaining and comes with its own surprise—it breaks down midway with a short, somewhat tangential funk segment that dramatically contrasts with the rest of the song.
Similarly, “Spark” pretty much falls in the middle of the road but also has its own fun with Fitzpatrick’s self-indulgent “oohs” and catchy chorus of “Don’t they know the speaker is about to explode?/Don’t they know this building is about to blow?”
Unfortunately, from here, the album’s songs pretty much just become a catalog of forgettable numbers. “6 AM” sounds like a track dug out of a kitschy ‘80s music collection and “House on Fire,” with its grating background chorus, certainly burns—but not in a good way. More in a third-degree-chemical-burn kind of way.
The remaining tracks, like “Fools Gold,” and “Keepin Our Eyes Out,” drop completely off the radar. Anti-climactic and lacking the energy found in some of the earlier tracks on the album, the rest of the tracks on More Than Just a Dream simply slip off into the realm of the lackluster.
While not all of the album may stand up as strongly as the first few songs, tracks like “Out of My League” and “Break the Walls” prove that Fitz and the Tantrums still have it in them; they just need to let it out.
– Maya Phillips