The least authentic period-faithful of the recent soul revivalists — but also among the most spirited in performance — L.A.’s Fitz and the Tantrums, like their name implies, wholeheartedly embrace vintage R&B’s explosive energy. Lead vocalist Michael Fitzpatrick and similarly fiery background singer Noelle Scaggs achieve pop-soul alchemy, and for their second album, the group partners with fellow Los Angeleno Tony Hoffer for broader, more contemporary, studio-savvy strokes that suggest what fun.’s Some Nights might’ve sounded like had Janelle Monáe had sung on more than just “We Are Young.”
Although Hoffer supplies the occasional guitar, the band’s core remains keys, horns, drums and vocals, all given a thick, pounding punch. The difference is immediately apparent on the first few echo-drenched seconds of “Out of My League,” which recalls Hoffer’s most notable mixing work on, M83′s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The excitement of the sextet’s 2010 debut is still there, but this time Fitzpatrick’s voice is double-tracked and fed through various gizmos for a cavernous effect, as drums, handclaps, keys, and various ooo-oohs swirl around him. “6am” drops the BPMs but heightens the vocal harmonies: Fitzpatrick shares his spotlight with Scaggs, then lets her fly solo for the first lines of the second verse, suggesting this already righteous ensemble would be even sharper if the vocalists split their mike time evenly and instrumentalists like trumpeter/saxophonist James King got more time to shine. These Tantrums are just as engaging as their Fitz.