Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Here
Having coloured the summer canvas of 2010 with their debut album Up From Below Edward Sharpe, alter ego of Alex Ebert, one time frontman of Ima Robot, and his Magnetic Zeroes return with their brand of choral, hand clapping, feelgood 60's hippy era inspired music. Sharpe and his Magnetic Zeros weigh in as a band of double digits, leading any listener to expect grandiose music filled with an overwhelming sense of accompaniments galore. However, Here is an album that relies more on low-key softness and a far less grand sound than could be expected of such a unit.
Opener 'Man On Fire' sets the warm and melodious tone on an album that only really takes off when the vocal lead is handed to female vocalist Jade Castrinos. Her stronger and more visceral vocal pulls focus from the seven of nine tracks lead by Ebert and transforms the soundscape into something more balanced and altogether more consistently listenable. There is, unfortunately, a real sense of Ebert seeking to keep the sound of his troup more withdrawn, even when allowed to flourish on 'Mayla' their sound remains refrained: hand clapping once more, minor workings of guitar and backing vocals all delicately placed throughout the track.
Here may well represent a development in the sound of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes but most of that development is seemingly centered around Ebert. The lyrics, vocals and music are all rotating around the celestial Ebert. Where Up From Below sought to create a musical balancing act between Ebert and Castinos, Here drops the balance and relegates what in essence creates the best sound for this gang of musicians, a point quite evident on the album's closer 'All Wash Out': a beautiful composition layered over a gentle vocal. Collaboration is a wonderful thing when all the parts are working together to create a whole. The feeling here though is more one of Ebert conducting his choir to his sound and his sound only, creating an inconsistent nine tracks.
More Polyphonic Spree than Arcade Fire, the hippy-esque feel does transfer well throughout Here, but does fail to find any real verve. Although it is no detriment to an album to play things low-key, Ebert draws too much of the sounds to himself leaving you with the feeling that this is more of a solo offering than a real band working at a definitive sound. It is disappointing in parts but does offer a spirited sound, albeit one which carries little consistency. Perhaps a little indulgent at points but a solid offering in a styling of music that often has little of real substance about it.