(Self-released, digital download)
The Fantastic Partnerz are apparently a very happy bunch. The Brattleboro-based "dance pop boogie rock" sextet's debut album, Tomorrow Is the Future, is a sunny, southern Vermont take on classic Motown and funk.
Positivity is the name of the game on these 10 tunes. The hopeful title track warns of "thoughts that stay the same" and breezily advises parents to "tell your kids to feel no shame / fate will be their teacher." "Get Back in the Groove" is similarly flippant and beat heavy, speaking of tossing one relationship and quickly getting back on the dating scene.
"Few Drinks Down" tells a tongue-in-cheek story of consequences after a rough night. With perky "oh-oh-oh-oh" chanting over snazzy horn lines, it's playful and self-deprecating.
The album's centerpiece is "Get Up to Get Down." The literal call to the dance floor serves as a metaphorical call to be present in life and make the best of things.
Some of the more impressive, and surprising, moments occur when drummer Trish Naudon takes lead vocals, first on "Welcome to You" and then on the slow-winding "Let's Go." Her sultry R&B style recalls Whoa, Nelly!-era Nelly Furtado, or even Tragic Kingdom-era Gwen Stefani.
"Shake Your Booty Girl" is an ode to the rump-shaking that inevitably occurs at dance clubs. Perhaps we have Sir Mix-A-Lot to blame — or thank, depending on your perspective — for the lyrical obsession with the female posterior. Then again, outlets from People magazine to MTV proclaimed 2014 as "the year of the butt," so perhaps the Partnerz are just falling in line. The song's repetitive chorus proclaims: "If you got a big butt don't leave it in the house / take it to the club and shake that baby out." Is the song cliché? Yes. Is it still danceable and booty-shakable? Also yes, but the Partnerz can do better.
With that catalog of fun and funky tracks behind them, the Partnerz might have done well to wrap up the album. The last two tunes are a little mismatched and ambitious. "Blue Star" is more of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs-inspired thrasher than a happy-go-lucky funk tune. The closer "Yo, Calm Down Yo" feels overdone. Screechy, spacey electronic effects seem out of place for the otherwise horns-driven album.
The Fantastic Partnerz are plucky and confident, and all they demand of their audience is to have a good time. While their Motown-inspired, funkified debut is a touch too buoyant at times, it is undoubtedly motivating and peppy.
The Fantastic Partnerz's Tomorrow Is the Future is available at thefantasticpartnerz.bandcamp.com. They play Charlie-O's World Famous in Montpelier on Friday, November 20.