Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
An original contribution for the wonderful Pretty Much Amazing:
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros refuse to subdue their musical pep, despite the increasingly heavy topics that their lyrics casually confess. A band with ten members and endless instrumental varieties is their tangible means to an honest and upbeat, anthem-bellowed sound. Frontman Alexander Ebert’s robust vocals and his band’s harmonies in unison declare a state of satisfaction within the world and inside themselves. We have the pleasure to indulge their constructive expressions of this in the band’s third release, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, just as we shared their declarations of love in 2009’s “Home” and their innocent atheism in 2012’s “I Don’t Wanna Pray.” Psychedelic backdrops and big-band sounds found a captivating musical journey into the head of Ebert, an old and supremely liberated soul.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros hop styles with the playful ambition of kids in search of adventure on a summer night. The freedom of expression and thematic irregularity that we hear while listening to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is a fabulous release from the traditionally despised contract that constrained Ebert’s first and former band, Ima Robot. With transient arrangements and free voices guiding this album’s sound, earnest listeners can expect to feel at each sonic juncture.
Every moment of sun-hearted tuning is met with a subtly expressed, but ever-present sadness. Ebert’s energy is weathered and complex, conveying a triumph of strength over what seems to be a dormant internal struggle throughout life and periods of career. Perhaps sadness might also originate within the listener; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros offers a distinguishable retro recording quality, which coupled with tracks coated in 1960’s and 70’s inspiration can entice a melancholy nostalgia for the Righteous Brothers “old days”- a reminiscent, grass-is-always-greener kind of complex.
“Country Calling” is a unique treat, divulging the laidback distortion of a Black Keys track, the spontaneity of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and a distinct underlying twang. Wildly apparent Abbey Road/Sgt Pepper-era Beatles musings promise amusement and on-repeat listeners. “Let’s Get High” is the epitome of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ 1960’s pop-rock influence – goofy, freely uplifting and impulsively driven. Even the lyrics of “If I Were Free” bounce with the melody and lyrical silliness of “Octopus’s Garden”: “Yes, if I were free I’d be the ‘U’ that crossed the ‘I’ to simply ‘B’/Minding our reflections at the bottom of the sea.”
“Please!” and “Life Is Hard” are tuneful efforts to motivate the choirful masses with powerful, arpeggiated momentum. Bandmate Jade Castrinos’ soaring voice celebrates, “You will not be called a weakling nor a fraud/For feeling the pain of the whole wide world/Life is sunny, life is cool/Life is even easy too/Come celebrate/Life is hard!” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is complete with a full range of feeling and passion that rarely, if ever, feels insincere. To quote Camus, a philosopher that Ebert would likely relate to, “There is scarcely any passion without struggle. Outside of that single fatality of death, everything, joy or happiness, is liberty.”
Ebert claims “This Life” to be one of his favorite recordings of all time. Its opening lines, “I’ve been trying to pretend that death is my friend/I’ve been lying to myself, not to nobody else,” suggest a revelatory liberation within Ebert’s process of self-reflection. Whether it’s dedicated to his Gestalt therapist father and the candid, existential upbringing that ensued or to an unrelated inner quest overcame, “This Life” is the album’s cumulative triumph of emotion, beauty and luscious, shut-eyed wonder. The song’s spacious vocal reverb soaks right into the goosebumps that its choruses confidently craft. It’s a heartfelt conclusion that is only strengthened by knowing Ebert’s affinity for the song.