I love Shazam. When it was first introduced several years ago, I thought mankind had reached the zenith of innovation.
“You can just point your phone in the direction of a song playing on the radio and it’ll tell you the name and artist? What is this, Hill Valley, Calif., circa 2015?”
It was several years before I ever had a phone actually capable of downloading the app, but you can be assured that it was the first one I grabbed. Since then, I’ve used it in bars, restaurants, department stores, while driving in the car and even at a concert or two.
The best is when I discover a new band through it. But more often it’s a song I’ve heard before but can’t quite place. And sometimes, it turns out to be a band I do know but have deemed unworthy of my ears.
That was the case recently when, on two different occasions, I heard two catchy new songs on the radio and immediately headed to Shazam. Both times, it came back saying — much to my surprise — that the band was Fitz & The Tantrums.
That was one of the songs, “Out of My League”, which is the lead single off their sophomore album, More Than Just a Dream, that came out last spring. It’s a much more modern take on the neo-soul sound the group has been developing since bursting on the scene a few years ago.
If you listen to enough of the Los Angeles-based six-piece’s music, you may notice something missing — guitars. That is by design. Founder and lead singer, Michael Fitzpatrick, expressly set out to create music without the ubiquitous instrument.
In an interview with Waster.com, he said:
“I wanted to see if we could create something that felt like it was full and rich and felt like it could be heard on the radio, without those guitars. … All of a sudden, it becomes more about the rhythm section, the bass and the drums and what the organ’s doing. And it creates this really cool pocket for the vocals to sing in.”
Fitz & The Tantrums’ style has been described as “soul-influenced indie pop,” which would be accurate nowadays. But when they put out their debut, Picking Up the Pieces, in August 2010, it was strictly soul, straight out of Motown.
That song, along with the single “MoneyGrabber”, helped catapult the album out of obscurity and to the top of the Billboard Heatseekers chart in 2011.
The album isn’t bad, but it’s a bit of overkill, and the group starts to sound like a one-trick pony after a while.
The new stuff isn’t that much of a departure from the original sound, but there’s been enough of a makeover to make it much more palatable for a modern audience. So much so that Ellen DeGeneres was recently dancing to “The Walker” during a pre-Oscars commercial.
I suspect this group puts on a raucous live show. And it looks like they’re still out on tour, with several stops in college towns and various festivals planned for the spring and summer.