Release Date: May 29, 2012
Record label: Vagrant
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
On its 2009 debut, this 12-piece ensemble went whole-hog on the hippie dream, dressing like an Aquarian cult and playing dazed acid folk that reimagined 1969 as one swaying group hug. Leader Alex Ebert was an L.A. rock journeyman, not an authentic flower puppy. But he wore his Manson beard with flair, and the second Magnetic Zeros LP taps into a slightly more down-to-earth Sixties, while Ebert pulls off a wider array of musical costumes.
True, this L.A. folk-pop group began as a concept band about a bearded messiah, and singer Alex Ebert sometimes performs shirtless. But before you dismiss them as Hollywood hippies, know that they’re serious about the lovely troubadour melodies on Here. From the jug-band-style jam ”That’s What’s Up” to the reggae bliss-out ”One Love to Another,” they’ve got so much heart, they can crush hipster irony with one squeeze of the accordion.
People worry too much about the authenticity of Alex Ebert's Edward Sharpe persona. Yes, the bearded, wide-eyed hippy messiah thing is far from his former incarnation as frontman of electro-rock band Ima Robot, but it's a more interesting way to get through rehab than writing a bunch of earnest songs about getting sober. Set aside your concerns about the backstory, listen to the actual songs and you'll discover a talented band that's grown a lot since their 2009 debut, Up From Below, without losing track of their strengths.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic ZerosHere[Community Music / Vagrant; 2012]By Brendan Frank; May 31, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetI’ve always been fond of continuity with album titles. With the possible exception of Led Zeppelin, such can tell you a lot about the artist and what they want their music to express. Alex Ebert and nine Los Angeles musicians arrived as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in 2007.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic ZeroesHere(Vagrant)3.5 out of 5 stars For most bands, a sophomore album can go one of two ways: In some cases, the energy poured into their debut fizzles, and the follow-up is comparatively flat. When we’re lucky, a band builds off of the passion they felt as a start-up and hits their stride. It’s hard to say whether Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has hit their stride with Here, their second album—but it’s safe to say that it brings forth just as much energy as the band’s 2009 debut, Up From Below.
It's been three years since Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros carved out an interesting creative niche with their 2009 debut album, Up From Below. In the '60s, three years could mean everything to a folk-oriented act, though the lofty pursuits of artists like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs are leagues away from those of The Magnetic Zeros. .
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' recent collaboration with the Flaming Lips-- an understated folk hymn with not-so-understated title of "Helping the Retarded to Know God"-- concludes with a two-minute coda wherein Wayne Coyne repeats the words, "I am trying/ To know you," with increasing desperation at each pass. The song's title suggests Coyne is singing to the man upstairs, but he could very well be directing that line at Sharpe-- i.e., the born-again alias/alter ego of L.A. music-scene lifer Alex Ebert.
When Alex Ebert re-emerged in 2009 as messianic musical cult leader Edward Sharpe, many familiar with his previous band, Ima Robot, weren't buying it. With Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Ebert made the dramatic 180 from sleazy electroclash-leaning punk singer to grizzly bearded bandleader in an 11-piece down-home freak folk revue, bright psychedelic colors and farmhouse harmonies replacing his not too distant past of black leather and smirky sneers. Artists change constantly, and Ebert's reinvention wasn't completely laughable or phony.
“Any ol’ shmuck can be a rockstar,” Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros once said. And in a sense, that’s probably true. While any ol’ shmuck may not be able to write truly original music, the chillwave phenomenon alone serves as a testament to the power of nostalgia to bolster an artist’s career. But whereas chillwave drew on New Wave, Ebert’s Edward Sharpe draws on ‘70s folk, family bands and a time when cruising the country in a van full of your friends, wearing flowy muslin clothing and daisy chains, seemed like a viable career option.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros look like an escaped band of art students, and their sound does nothing to dissuade that perception. Hippie-folk-rock is their forte, executed to delicious heights on their debut, 2009’s Up From Below, and smeared all over the country on their ensuing tours. While their playfulness is initially charming, those who spun that debut a few too many times may have found that quirk can become a little grating.
By name alone, folk music is communal and inclusive, but its fan base can be notoriously weary of outsiders. Case in point: despite having one of the few genuine folk-rock crossover hits in recent years with "Home," Alex Ebert (the frontman and songwriter for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes) is often derided as a poseur, a guy who jumped from electro-punk outfit Ima Robot into a symbolic VW bus without apparent hesitation. Such backlash is puzzling though since musicians, particularly of Ebert's generation, make genre leaps all the time.
With 2009 debut Up From Below, Edward Sharpe tapped an uncanny vein of folky sing-a-long and charismatic weirdness. Here settles in perfectly as a follow-up, leading with the downbeat whoop and harmony of "Man on Fire" and cloyingly catchy "That's What's Up." Frontman Alex Ebert shoots more sincerity with the sophomore effort, which paradoxically results in a set that feels about as authentic as his previous Ima Robot persona. Jade Castrinos reprises her role as daydreaming foil to Ebert's shaman, humming harmony on the circle-chant of "Mayla" and taking a gospel soul turn on "Fiya Wata," but the L.A.