The folk collective that is The Magnetic Zeros, a ten-piece menagerie of people that look like they just came stompin’ on down from a hippie compound in Oklahoma have had an interesting rise to fame as a band. The bands backstory is that frontman, Alex Ebert, formally of electronic band, Ima Robot, was a recovering drug addict, and during his time in rehab he began assembling a fictional story of a Ziggy Stardust-like prophet who was "sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind, but he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love." This messianic figure came to be the titular “Edward Sharpe” and took form in Ebert’s own body. Since the bands formation there has been debate on the authenticity of this tale; true story of a recovering drug addict turned psychedelic messiah, or just a gimmicky tale to promote the band? That is for the listener to decide, but thankfully it doesn’t distract from the bands strong musical capabilities.
As the story goes though, Sharpe met singer Jade Castrinos at a Los Angeles café and the roots of The Magnetic Zeros were planted. After the pair worked in The Masses, an art collective funded in part by the late-Heath Ledger, the pair turned into a ten-piece (sometimes more) group and released their first studio album, Up From Below
in 2009. With their first single the band found their highest charting song to date, the magnificent Sonny and Cher style proclamation of love, “Home.” Though the band has not been able to match the mainstream success of “Home”, the group flies under the radar, still releasing music to those fans who stuck around and all others who are willing to listen.
In 2012, the band released their second studio album Here
. Like Up From Below
features the group’s signature folk sounds, but while the first was long, and featured some forgettable filler, Here
, is short and concise, but never being underwhelming. Opening with the simple strum and snaps of “Man On Fire” the song subtly builds, adding each sound the individual members have to offer, turning into a heartfelt clap and stomping song that just seeps joy. As a whole the album feels a little more stripped than the previous, but it works so well, particularly on songs like “Mayla” and “Dear Believer” where Ebert’s voice sounds it’s best.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of this album though is the lack of utilization in Castrinos’ voice. She is easily a better singer than Ebert, her voice has more depth and more raw emotion, but unfortunately she is reduced to almost strictly backup vocals on this one. There is only one song where she is given the full stage, and that is “Fiya Wata” the most country sounding song on the album. It features some twangy strings and poetic lyrics such as “Love is within each heart to guide us. Thank the sun for shining that light and lettin' love blaze like, Fire! Water!”
The albums strongest moment though comes with “I Don’t Want To Pray,” which is possibly the best song of the bands catalogue. With the whole band singing in unison over lofi drums, the song has the most emotional impact and the most interesting musical composition the album has to offer.
To many, Here
may feel like a disappointment. It doesn’t feature any songs with the catchy melodies of “Home,” and frankly they are missed sometimes. The album does not have any immediate hits on it and as a whole relies on each individual song for support rather than Up From Below where the entirety of the album relied on the strength of the first half. Here represents a growing band, and group finding their style and honing it and anyone who claims that they are more style of substance would be sorely mistaken.