Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros once again unleashed their Americana folk music on the world with the release of their sophomore album, Here, this week. Since the success of their 2009 debut, Up From Below, which featured multiple popular singles including the jubilant hit “Home,” the band returns to brighten the music scene after their previous successful run. Combining a modern indie feel with a hippie folk sound that is strongly reminiscent of the 1960s, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros infuse Southern twang and gospel themes with a strong dose of soulful power into their new album.
The group’s creator and lead vocalist Alex Ebert pairs with 11 other artists to create the unique band. With a voice that is reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Alex connects semi-religious lyrics with hopeful messages to construct a distinctly American folk album. The song that is probably the most Johnny Cash-esque is “Man on Fire.” The track features an emphasis on acceptance, hope, and love – themes that are prevalent throughout the album.
While some songs verge on being overly –- and occasionally outlandishly –- religious, such as “I Don’t Want to Pray,” which contains the lines, “I love my god, God made good. I love my god, God made bad. I love my god, God made me,” when only right before Alex exclaims, “I don’t want to pray to my maker,” others give a more sober ode to the American grassroots movement. This is best realized on the track “Mayla,” which transports listeners into a dreamlike state with soulful, low-key sounds. This introspective track and others like it — including the psychedelic power ballad “Fiya Wata” — prove to be the highlights of the album. Instead of hiding in a Southern vision of Christianity that can sporadically boarder on a personalized version of a pseudo-hoedown, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros instead use religious-esque lyrics to reveal the basic human desire to find some type of paradise, which is easily interpreted as more than just the conventional view of heaven.
Though Here has a few minor flaws, it is overall an extremely charming and thoughtfully put-together release. Throughout the album, the group gives the positive message that hope is not foolish but instead needed to thrive. Rather than having a cynical view of the world, which can be beyond overwhelming in the indie music scene, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros reveal that the world is a lovely place to be and that humanity is inherently beautiful.
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