The traveling family band look doesn't work for everyone, however, it fits really well on Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. On paper it looks like this band probably shouldn't be as popular as they are. They aren't a bunch of heartthrobs, and they sure as hell don't twerk. Despite this, they have managed to maintain their elevated status in the public's eye while sticking to their original artistic vision. When "Home" got picked up by HBO for a preview of their summer programming, it seemed like the whole world got interested in this mysterious Sharpe character and his rag tag team of hippy-dippy cowboys (and girls). For some people the country chemistry of their single and the cover art of their album probably type casted the group as a folky/culty family band who fit the barn-stomping mold that so many others had already occupied. But Alex Ebert and friends have run the table for the last five years by consistently cranking out top-notch albums, and in doing so have earned the right to devastate ear drums at secret album release shows in NYC and absolutely destroy big time festivals - both in positive ways. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros hints at some secrets learned long ago. It preaches caring, kindness, love, and peace. The band's message emanates from each song, guiding the listener to Ebert's promised land of acceptance and bliss.
The band's latest album is like a spectacle of the lifestyle that was envisioned by hippies, but died out prematurely due to the ensuing heroin addictions of most ex-acid heads. It's a beautiful vision that this band promotes, instilling a desire to quit your day job and run off to live on a commune. Every one of the group's 11 members makes his or her presence explicitly known, which creates a larger than life sound. Nearly every song contains a family band group chorus somewhere along the way. What's great is that it is all done so skillfully that the product is not something gimmicky or redundant. Every song is so sincere and genuine that, despite the similarities to the rest of the album and even some older Beatles and Zombies tracks, they can stand on their own two feet as original and innovative works.
"Let's Get High" sounds like a psychedelic anthem for a traveling circus, and is packed with folky undertones and passionate, yearning cries for love. "In the Lion" joins the band's pastoral magic with fable and myth, so much so that it could inspire a children's books franchise. "If I Were Free" brings in a tight guitar solo, and contains lyrics and a message that will easily resonate with flower girls of a different generation. "Remember to Remember" is a refreshing interlude between the big group sing a longs, and features the stunning vocal skills of Jade Castrinos as she belts out, "We belong to the water / We belong to the air / We belong where there is love."
Watch the "Better Days" music video:
This album stretches out the space between past and present and paints it with the kaleidoscopic tones of this very unique group. It dissolves lines between soul, blues, and folk, and emerges as a retrospective manifesto for peace, love, and harmony.
This 11-piece musical troupe brings us along on a journey through an outlook on life. It acknowledges the differences between pain, suffering, love, and joy, only to reconcile them all as the beautiful reality of existence. Forgiveness, selflessness, and redemption float through the ether of Edward Sharpe's consciousness. To Ebert and co. life is a bit simpler than the rest of us make it out to be. A few basic values govern what should be kept and what should be left behind. Altogether the album leaves you feeling hopeful about the world, about yourself, and about the mysteries life has in store. It puts a little more magic into the air that will hopefully reverberate for years to come. Like Alex Ebert once said on his own spirituality, "It's more fun to live with magic than without it."
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is out now on Vagrant. Get your copy here.
Watch the band perform songs off their previous album at the World Cafe, exclusively on Baeblemusic: