September 20, 2019 Fitz and the Tantrums – All The Feels (Album Review)
Known for their unique blend of Neo Soul and Indie Pop, Fitz and the Tantrums has been bringing the dancy, feel-good, anthems you bop to since 2008. Currently comprised of Michael Fitzpatrick (lead vocals), Noelle Scaggs (co-lead vocals and percussion), James King (saxophone, flute, keyboard, percussion and guitar), Joseph Karnes (bass guitar), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards) and John Wicks (drums and percussion), this funky crew released their debut album, Pickin Up the Pieces, in August 2010 where it shot to the top of the Heatseekers chart. The band has been marking their territory on Billboard charts ever since. Now, they have released their fourth studio album, All The Feels, on Elektra Records and with a staggering 17-song tracklist, it marks the band’s longest album to date.
As with any album with so many tracks, not all of them are destined to be standouts, but the title track, “All The Feels,” has a refreshing and uplifting quality that makes it a smooth introduction to the album. Featuring rhythmic percussion, like a heartbeat, and the soulful vocals of Fitzpatrick, this track has tones of longing, hopefulness, and vulnerability. If you’re looking for a sticky sweet pick-me-up anthem, “I Just Wanna Shine” is bound to be your jam. With lyrics that address the ever-presence of stress, social pressures, and the work it takes to overcome those things, this boppy tune is all about working on your own happiness and making it happen. Thematically following that up is “Ain’t Nobody But Me” and its sharp snare highlights an otherwise effervescent message of owning your identity and standing firm in who you are without question.
One common thread throughout this album is the band’s strategic use of heavy bass and ethereal tones paired with upbeat tempos to more easily deliver their messages. If you’re not careful one could easily miss their lyrical depths and the relatability of the stories they’re telling, but that is the real beauty of these songs- they’re sneakily real and encouraging without always drowning you in “sugary” beats and lyrics. “Ready or Not” has the funk and soul of a ’90s R&B song while also acting as an anthem of confidence and perseverance. The bass in this song has you bobbing your head and swinging your shoulders before you fully realize what you’re doing. Then Fitzpatrick getting into that semi-rap in the second versus and it switches up the vibe.
“SuperMagik” has marching band meets Caribbean vibes infused into early 2000s Pop era a’ la Gwen Stefani. It’s repetitive, quirky, and easy to get stuck in your head with mostly infectiousness and an easy to remember chorus carrying it along. “Belladonna” follows with strange EDM-esqe vibes strung throughout its. It’s primary standout features are its use of heavy synth beats and distortion to create an unnatural sharpness and occasional warble. It is a very appropriate title because this sonically gives the impression of the kind of head trip one would have after imbibing a small dose of something that should be poisonous. It loopy and strange, but kind weirdly works out.
As the album comes to a close, “Maybe You” come in with fun bounce that is both easy to flow with and interesting to keep pace with by ear. The softer vocals of the infamous Scaggs are given their moment to shine while also finding an easy stride in harmonies with Fitzpatrick. “Livin’ For The Weekend” is a bass-laden hip-hop flavored banger that shuts it down at the end of this album. The core beats are infectious and hefty, reverberating in the chest and compelling movement with each thrum. The bridge is a mash-up synth, auto-tune, and percussion that snaps and bops right through the rest of the song to the end.
While 17 songs is quite an undertaking and a commendable effort on behalf of the group, it wasn’t necessary. Many of the songs have similar themes of finding and owning self-confidence, overcoming anxiety, as well as finding your own happiness, which makes the number of songs seem even more arduous. Despite the startling quantity of tracks, the good thing is that they all run relatively short and the total runtime for the album come in just under a solid hour. Overall, they seem to progress one-after-the-other with some ease and without being too beleaguered. The major standouts both in style and impact were definitely “All The Feels,” “Ready or Not,” “Belladonna,” and “Livin’ For The Weekend.” However, “OCD” had its moments where the junkie ’80s pop nostalgia of its tone and subject referring to “ listening to old CDs” as the window looking back to a more innocent time when listening to CDs one-on-one with your crush was the best way to bond. It’s sweet, energetic, nostalgic, and overall a good time.
One this album showcases well is that Fitz and the Tantrums are gifted at finding creative ways to blend sounds, breach barriers, and implant messages. So, for ingenuity, creativity, and general infectiousness, CrypticRock gives Fitz and the Tantrums All The Feels 4 out of 5 stars.