With a band name like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, it was hardly surprising when their 2009 album, Up From Below became something of an anthem for hipsters the world over. Three years later, the band’s follow-up album, Here, moves into new territory without totally forsaking the folksy kitch sound that is their signature.
The first track, “Man on Fire” is a resplendent return to the band’s folksy roots. Making use of their large, 10-member ensemble, the simple guitar arrangement is complemented by the comforting crooning of the many band members as their instruments are introduced to the mix.
Alex Ebert’s gruff lyrics, though occasionally slipping into ineloquence, evoke the down-to-earth bluntness of a Nashville country band. Quaint calls for peace like, “Oh the whole damn world / come and dance with me” aim to repackage hardship and strife familiar to the folk genre into a friendly, listenable product. Though acknowledging life’s darker side, there is an obvious optimism for the future in the bands uplifting compositions and playful lyrics.
However, this formula feels a little stretched on occasion, with certain lyrics like, “You be the book I’ll be the binding / you be the words I’ll be the writing” on “That’s What Up.”
The band recovers by the final track, “All Wash Out,” by introducing an interesting rain effect to the haunting sound of Ebert’s whistling, which will resonate with those familiar with the Magnetic Zeros’ previous album.
There is something a bit too self-consciously zeitgiesty about this album, as if the band was trying very hard to be the sound of the counterculture occupy/organic/hipster moment. Nevertheless, on the most superficial level, the music is fun to listen to. We should all be thankful for that, because something about Here suggests it will be sticking with us for most of the summer.