It’s been a momentous three years for Alexander Ebert. In the short amount of time, he has reexamined his life and his musical direction. Coming from the raucous pop of Ima Robot, the musician created a side project based around his alter ego, Edward Sharpe. This band, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, released its debut full-length Up From Below in 2009 to remarkable amounts of praise, and the album’s single, “Home,” may have been the most played song in the last few years, even appearing on commercial for the NFL. Since the record’s release, the Los Angeles-based indie-folk troupe has garnered an astonishing number of fans that eagerly waited for a follow-up album.
And three years later, the twelve-piece obliged tenfold by announcing two releases in 2012, with the first installment being Here. In the nine-track release, ES&MZ does not stray from its signature indie-folk sound, but instead expounds on it. Where Up From Below experimented with a variety of musical arrangements, Here feels more organized and developed. The band has had time both on the road and during recording to congeal, and as a result the music has done the same.
That’s not to say there is no experimentation in this record. Ebert still plays with soundscapes, but in a more subtle way. From the harmonious, chant-like chorus of “Mayla,” or the reggae influenced “One To Love,” to the country-tinged “Fiya Wata,” the songwriter manages to include an underlying resonance that allows the songs to flow lucidly.
Lush, family-band-like instrumentation is at the core of every track that comprises the album. Every member has a distinct role in every song rather than simply accompanying Ebert’s vocals. These tunes are richer than those on the first album. It is clear a group and not a sole person has created them. Jade Castrinos’ beautiful voice harmonizes with Ebert’s in six of the nine tracks, and she sings solo in the twangy “Fiya Wata.” In addition, guitarist Christian Letts lends his charmingly raspy voice to the acoustic folk masterpiece, “Child.”
Aside from Here being more of a group effort, Ebert also pulls from his newfound spirituality in songs like “I Don’t Wanna,” and “Dear Believer.” From the sounds of it, the musician has found peace within himself and this reverence translates to calm confidence in his songs.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros has come a long way in a short amount of time, and as the members continue to solidify as a collective and show their musical strengths, there’s no telling how far this band could go.
Here’s counterpart is slated for an October release.