Bursting onto the scene in 2009 with the radio friendly Up from Below, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have returned with something perhaps less approachable but far more engrossing. Here is the rootsy sophomore effort by folk-prophet Alex Ebert and his tuneful hippie collective. Unlike it’s predecessor, Here has no real breakout singles and less grandiose arrangements. Instead it’s a primarily acoustic, stripped down record that feels like a love letter to turn of the century folk and gospel music.
It’s more than appropriate that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros would find themselves dabbling with spiritual music. The group has always had that kind of traveling, religious commune feel. Alex Ebert (often dressed in all white) seems to lead the group like some kind of eccentric hippie pastor. So now that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have created a spiritual record they finally have something that truly fits their concept. The results are an album that feels more honest and focused than their debut.
My only real problem with Here is how underused some of the musicians are. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is currently a dectet (that’s ten members) but you couldn’t tell from listening to the record. Where the first album hit hard with a glorious wall of guitars, keys, and horns, this album has much less. Why have so many members if you’re going to make such a scaled back album? I miss the larger than life sound, but I still enjoy the optimistic passion of this group.
Religion is a primary theme of Here and it’s dealt with little subtlety. “I love my God, God made love, I love my God, God Made Hate.” Not a lot of other ways to interpret those lyrics. I see it more as a tribute to gospel music, but it’s hard to tell with a figure as peculiar as Ebert. The leadoff track “Man on Fire” (which I can only assume its about Denzel Washington) is arguably the best on the album. It’s a brooding, ever-building ballad that wouldn’t sound out of step coming from Johnny Cash in his later years.
Fans who liked tracks like “Home”, “40 Day Dream”, or “Janglin'” may be disappointed by Here. Even though it doesn’t have any songs quite as memorable as the ones I just mentioned, it’s still a better record. Here has a clearer vision and a deeper significance.
Favorite Tracks: “Dear Believer”, “I Don’t Wanna Pray”, “Man on Fire”