Certain bands spark magic on the first listen. The debut Fitz and the Tantrums EP, Songs For A Breakup, Vol. 1 has that musical wizardry. The EP and their breakout album, Pickin’ Up The Pieces, are modern day neo-soul classics. Released on August 11, 2009, the sound in Songs For A Breakup retains a love-at-first-sight quality, even as the band’s profile changes for more contemporary pop music.
Songs For A Breakup, Vol. 1 is a result of the best $50 that the band’s lead singer could ever spend. In an interview with Buzzbands.la Michael Fitzpatrick recalled the purchase that laid the foundation for the band’s early sound:
“An ex-girlfriend called one day to tell him a neighbor was selling an old church organ for $50. Would he be interested? “I told her, ‘Buy it, I’ll give you the 50 bucks later,’” he remembers. A few hours and some backbreaking lifting later, he owned a ’60s-vintage Conn organ “that just consumes my living room.”
The rest is history. Fitzpatrick recruited members Noelle Scaggs, James King, John Wicks, Jeremy Ruzumma, and Ethan Phillips quickly. The EP even had the good fortune to slip into the hands of Adam Levine’s tattoo artist, allowing the band’s throwback tales of heartache to spread like wildfire.
Their first album, Pickin’ Up The Pieces, dropped the following year. Songs For A Breakup, Vol. 1 and Pickin’ Up The Pieces did more than cement my early Fitz and the Tantrums fandom. They were musical gateways.
Fitz and the Tantrum’s appearance on Live From Daryl’s House awoke my love of Hall & Oates and a slew of other artists. I will always remember Michael Fitzpatrick talking up their then-unknown opening act at a 2011 gig at Philadelphia’s Theater of the Living Arts. Three years later Walk The Moon dropped their mega-single “Shut Up And Dance” and validated Fitzpatrick’s faith.
Since their early success, the band has gone from neo-soul to Top 40 pop. Even though I am not in love with their last two albums, the first music from the band will always endure as a classic soul revival.
Fitz and the Tantrums Song For A Breakup
Breakin’ The Chains Of Love
The first track on Songs For A Breakup, Vol. 1 is a direct result of Michael Fitzpatrick’s $50 organ purchase. The instrument is a central piece of the lead song. He wrote “Breakin’ The Chains Of Love” that same day and made calls to assemble Fitz and The Tantrums. The track prominently features the organ and Fitzpatrick’s beautiful mix-messaged lyrics:
Oh what a lovely day
Breakin’ the chains of love
I’m hoping that you won’t find a new love
Cause I know that baby you’re mine.
Don’t Gotta Work It Out
This is Fitz and the Tantrums’ best collective moment on Songs For A Breakup, Vol. 1. The full picture of the band as a soulful hitmaker fall together throughout this song. The catchy piano intro keys a wonderful blend of rhythm and sax. Fitzpatrick also sings well with cohort Noelle Scaggs on this track. The pair are a force together on many songs, but Scaggs’ role as more of a co-lead than a backup singer comes through as they sing together on “Don’t Gotta Work It Out.”
In the song itself, Michael Fitzpatrick casts his significant other aside. Instead of bemoaning loss, he cuts the cord on a relationship. This brings a welcome diversity to their early work. The EP is not just a series of brokenhearted songs, but a group of songs about a breakup that keeps the record from getting stale early.
One of two songs on Songs For A Breakup that did not make the full-length debut, “Darkest Street” later resurfaces as a B-side for the Christmas single “Santa Stole My Lady.”
Despite the song’s discard status, “Darkest Street” holds up with their early body of work. With a keyboard as the early hook, street corner chorus, and horn solo, the song has one of the most retro vibes on the throwback album. The track holds a lonelier narrative than its two predecessors. Fitzpatrick sinks into his melancholy as someone facing romantic abandonment, singing the depressing line – “A house is not a home if I’m living here alone.”
Winds of Change
Fitz and the Tantrums are so good at tapping into the varying levels of emotion surrounding a breakup. “Winds of Change” brings a hopeful vibe as Michael Fitzpatrick sings about knowing his relationship is over. The track is more than Fitzpatrick’s timeless pipes. The band’s music syncs well with the chorus and provided an unexpected hopeful spirit to the tune.
We Don’t Need Love Songs
The most ironic title for a Fitz and the Tantrums song: “We Don’t Need Love Songs.” Everything in Songs For A Breakup is about love, yet here is a song that defies its brethren on the EP. The song begins with the warm glow of Fitzpatrick’s organ and a gentle, swaying beat. Backed by a classic sound that could fit on a Fifties R&B record, Fitzpatrick takes it to church with the defiant line, “We don’t need no love songs to the tell the world how hopeless we feel.”
“We Don’t Need Long Songs” is the only track on Songs For A Breakup that does not re-appear on another Fitz and the Tantrums release.