Album review: Fitz & the Tantrums’ ‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces’

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When it comes to evoking the products of a past musical era, there’s a thin line between love and hokiness. Too many retro-soul practitioners slip into mannerisms that range from cartoonish imitation to flat-out minstrelsy. This Silver Lake-based sextet makes brash ’60s-style pop that clearly derives from artists like the Temptations, but singer-bandleader Michael Fitzpatrick brings his own punky attitude into the room and makes the sound fresh.

The band’s debut LP, recorded in former studio engineer Fitzpatrick’s living room, rides heavily on the sound of vintage organ and crisp drums. Unusual instrumentation — the band doesn’t have a guitar, but does prominently feature sax — leaves much room for aggressive vocalizing, which reaches its highest pitch when Fitzpatrick plays against his more-than-able co-vocalist Noelle Scaggs. There’s a certain sameness to the songs’ tempos and arrangements here, but in general the hooks catch and the energy feels genuine. Fitz & the Tantrums is the kind of band that communicates best in concert, but this album serves as a fine proxy and party-starter.

—Ann Powers

Fitz & the Tantrums
“Pickin’ Up the Pieces”
(Dangerbird Records)
Three stars (Out of four)

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