I’ve always liked Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. There’s something soulful, simple, honest that this group exudes that only seems to pop up every now and then, on the rarest and most beautiful of occasions, with legendary folk artists such as Bob Dylan and newer plays like Iron & Wine. It’s the most desirable of qualities: being able to create folkish, innocently sweet music that somehow never strays into the territory of the cliche or cloying. The group is one that’s been brought together by love, and that same love is infused into their music.
So you can imagine my excitement when they came out with their second album, Here, as a follow up to the astoundingly popular “Up From Below,” which gained them loyal listeners and enthusiastic crowds at an array of festivals around the country.
Here opens with “Man on Fire,” a soulful ballad featuring the husky vocals of frontman Alex Ebert, in which he sings, “I’m a man on fire / Walking down your street / With one guitar / And two dancing feet / Only one desire / That’s left in me / I want the whole damn world / To come and dance with me.” It sets the tone for the rest of the album, this charming sweetness and playfulness that still has darker undertones of emotion and meaning.
The album progresses with The Magnetic Zeros’ typical sound. Thickly layered, often echoing instrumentals make up a complex backdrop for the group’s vocals – sometimes just Ebert and his sweetheart Jade Castrinos, other times a chorus of fervent voices. There’s always a slightly ephemeral quality to their music; occasionally the subtle tones of a harp or the tinkling of a chime in the distance, but mostly their sound is grounded, deep rooted in the folkish niche they have come to occupy. And I’ve come to notice that there’s something almost anecdotal about their music. It’s like listening to a beloved grandparent telling you their life story, reminding you of life’s ups and downs, ultimately leaving you with the warmth of belonging to something bigger than yourself and the satisfaction of a lesson learned.
And thus, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, wisened beyond their years but never stale, continues to delight listeners with their tenderness, their genuine passion and the love that they put into their music.