Posted by Rachel Garman on 07/02 at 11:09 AM
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is an assortment of musicians with seemingly one purpose: to revive peace & love in the world. The band formed when frontman, Alex Ebert, left his post as singer for the pop band Ima Robot and become the character of Edward Sharpe. Ebert created this alter-ego as a coping mechanism during a stint in rehab, met singer Jade Castrinos, and then developed the neo-hippie troop known as the Magnetic Zeros. After releasing their first album Up From Below to much acclaim, the band has returned with a second album entitled Here, released this past May.
The album opens with Man on Fire, a track that makes you believe all you need is “one guitar and two dancing feet.” Ebert croons over a combination of guitar, clapping, and humming to paint the picture of Edward Sharpe leading a parade of hippies down your street, and inviting people to briefly join the nomadic, peace-loving flock that is the Magnetic Zeros. The song fills you with a sense of hope and the feeling that all your worries will melt away. Just as the character of Edward Sharpe was a coping mechanism for Ebert, Man on Fire awakens motivation and the hopefulness to move forward.
That’s What’s Up, the first single off of Here, is a tambourine and electric guitar driven love song. Jade Castrinos’ bluesy voice emphasizes that “love is our shelter, love is our cause…” The song is the musical equivalent to Home on Up From Below, and it has a radio-friendly feel. The song continues the themes of peace and love, but it does it in a way that does not seem forced or artificial. This is a love that is promised to continue forever, and it has the strength to last. Then there’s That’s What’s Up. This song is certainly one of the stand-outs of the album due to its catchy, upbeat rhythm, and it is a song to look out for this summer.
The themes of heaven and God are fully present in I Don’t Wanna Pray. The combination of banjo and tambourine set the tone for the track. The song praises being one with the universe, and loving a God who made it all - a philosophy that Ebert has newly embraced. Castrinos’ rough, gravel-like voice gives the track a home-made, unproduced quality that is present on much of the album. Mayla, the next track, has the same “jam-session” quality. The track builds over group humming and harmonies, which suggests the band is more of a community than a musical act. Mayla is the longest track on the album (5:42), and it acts as a kind of intermission.
Unfortunately, the remaining songs on the album don’t match the energy of the first half of the album. While the first half elevates Sharpe’s sound beyond expectations, the second half loses steam and tends to fall into repetition where Sharpe’s familiar sound turns into cliché.
This cliché is apparent on Dear Believer. It’s a slower track that revisits the theme of heaven, as well as nature, and Sharpe’s quest to find purpose in his life. However, the message feels repetitive and dull at this point in the album. The horns are the sole redeeming factor in this track, and they are a welcome surprise. But the listener is left wanting more depth from Ebert, as the themes are quickly becoming worn out. One Love to Another also has the same forced and trite qualities as Dear Believer. It’s playing off the Bob Marley premise of “one love” - it’s redundant and feels like it was required on the album to satisfy some sort of “how to be a hippie” checklist. Granted, the song isn’t completely useless and would do well as the soundtrack for a trip to the beach, but it ultimately lacks any depth in the lyrics department.
Child is one of the redeeming songs during the monotonous second half of the album. It has a folky simple melody and beautiful tone. The track is a hidden gem amidst the overused themes on Here. It’s simplicity gives it the genuine aura that is so lacking in other parts of the album. Child’s innocence leaves you wanting more, yet still gives you the satisfaction of a quality song.
Fiya Wata has some good qualities as well, as it has a late-‘60’s feel where Castrinos’ voice emulates Janis Joplin. The piano riffs and guitar that drive the song create a bluesy tone that compliments Castrinos’ soulful voice. The Woodstock feeling of the track exemplifies the nature of this new brand of hippies that has arisen recently (i.e. hipsters). Overall, the song spotlights Castrinos’ talent, yet once again the lyrics and themes are overdone. The music and the voice talents of Castrinos are the two factors that bring the song up from “dull,” to just “okay.”
The album comes to a close with All Wash Out, another gem that displays the true talent of Ebert’s voice. The minimalistic and cinematic characteristics of the track stand apart from the more contrived tracks on Here. The melody and whistling on All Wash Out are subtle and delicate—two traits that were hard to find on many other tracks. The track does an excellent job of ending the journey through Here, and it almost makes you forget the cliché road bumps along the way. Those road bumps are okay though, for as the song suggests, “it will all wash out in the rain.”
Overall, the second album from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is what was expected—a collection of folksy peace & love songs that invite you to forget all the troubles of modern times. At times, the expected themes lacked any sort of quality or meaning and the listener was left to simply appreciate the music. The shorter length of Here is actually to the band’s benefit, as it protects the listener from getting too overwhelmed by some of the cliché themes throughout. However, those cliché themes are the album’s main downfall. The lack of genuine lyrics calls into question the sincerity of Edward Sharpe. The album’s redeeming qualities are those rare occasions when simplicity, musicality, and genuine lyrics converge. Tracks such as Man on Fire, That’s What’s Up, Child, and All Wash Out are examples of those rare occasions that save the album from redundancy. You can purchase and preview Here at iTunes or Amazon.
Author: Rachel Garman
Bio: Rachel Garman is a sophomore studying Journalism and English at Penn State. She enjoys writing, reading, photography, discussing the characters of Mad Men, and tasting menus. Her favorite genres include indie, folk, alternative rock, and hip-hop. Some of her favorite artists are David Bowie, Tom Petty, Jack’s Mannequin, Childish Gambino, Dead Man’s Bones, and Bon Iver.
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