An Album a Day: Pickin’ Up the Pieces

July 10, Pickin’ Up the Pieces by Fitz and the Tantrums 

Genre: Motown, but also not Motown, as it’s not on the Motown label plus it’s from 2010. But you know what I mean. 
Year: 2010
Runtime: 36:10
Total Number of Tracks: 10
Songs you might know:
– “MoneyGrabber”
– “Don’t Gotta Work It Out”

My prior relationship with the album: “MoneyGrabber” was one of those songs that just…well… grabbed me. I saw the video at around 2 in the morning on one of the off-brand MTV channels that still played real music videos. It stood out from anything else… “who the hell is still making music that sounds like this?” I asked myself. In my typical fashion, I proceeded to tell most of the other people who would listen about how awesome this song was, and in his typical fashion, my brother bought me the album for either my birthday or Christmas.

I went on to form an especially close bond with Pickin’ Up the Pieces in the summer of 2012 when I lived in an apartment with spotty internet and hadn’t thought to pack very many cds. I had haphazardly thrown this one into some plastic bin and so for a couple weeks, it was basically the only music I could reliably listen to.

 My impression this time around: The thing that really makes Pickin’ Up the Pieces so special is that it sounds like a true throwback album. In a world where so many artist are doing “this sound meets that sound” or “Y Sound but with a modern twist!” It’s incredibly refreshing to listen to something that draws its inspiration from ’60s motown, and doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The album helps prove just how timeless this sound truly is.

Lyrically, Pickin’ Up the Pieces perhaps defines the term “break up album.” Like any good breakup album, the theme is consistent while also being multifaceted. There’s “I’m sad, I miss you” songs as well as “fuck off, go home” songs. And even though nearly every track is oozing with that extremely palpable pain, no two songs explore the breakup in exactly the same way. “MoneyGrabber” is about the anger that goes along with a partner taking advantage of you financially. “Rich Girls” toys with this same topic, but also with the drawbacks of dating someone wealthier than you. “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” is about the euphoria of leaving a toxic relationship and looking forward to single life, while “Tighter” is about missing the relationship and reflecting on what could’ve been done differently to keep it alive. The only song that feels a little out of place is “Dear Mr. President” which is basically the ONLY song that doesn’t tie into the breakup theme in any way. However, it’s still cohesive musically and is a good enough song that that’s not a major drawback.

My only real complaint about this album (which is kind of a general Fitz and the Tantrums complaint) is that I wish we could hear more from Noelle Scaggs, the band’s female vocalist. While “Fitz” himself is a plenty talented vocalist, Scaggs also proves herself more than capable of singing lead on the album’s title track. It makes me wish more of these songs were true duets, but oftentimes Scaggs is relegated to backing vocals.

Who would enjoy it? I think anyone that digs old school Motown who is convinced that no one is making music like that anymore needs to give this album a try. It’s true that Fitz and the Tantrums have moved in a slightly more pop-ish direction, but this debut album is on point and embodies that same sound and soul of the “good ‘ol days.”

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