The Gospel Hippies
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When Edward Sharpe and his brethren, the Magnetic Zeros, descended upon earth in 2009, they did not just come across as a stereotypical hippie outfit, with their flannel clothing, loose hair and the unshaven-shirtless look. They were otherworldly in other ways too. A brainchild of lead vocalist Alex Ebert, American band Edward Sharpe (Ebert's messianic alter ego, he says) and the Magnetic Zeros began by touring the country by bus, taking their eclectic anthems to people, even before recording their debut album Up from Below in 2009. Reminiscent of the '60s folk-psychedelic rock revolution and its hippie subculture, the 10-member troupe's hits like Home and 40 day dream reverberated with joyful tunes and free-flowing elements like talking, laughing and multiple instruments and choruses. Their latest album, Here, takes a sharp turn from all the revelry and eases into a smooth nine-track groove.
Ebert's familiarity with country music in his early years gives way to Man on fire which has his easy baritone and soft riffs. The song's "man on fire", however, sounds like Ebert's fictional alter-ego on a mission to make the "whole damn world to come dance with me". With That's what's up, the magical duet of Ebert and Jade Castrinos returns; their voices rendered the conversational love anthem Home perfectly in 2009. In That's what's up, the duo sing in unison and rhyme almost each line: "I'll be the church, you be the steeple/you be the king, I'll be the people."
There's a gospel music-like sound to the next two tracks, I don't wanna pray and Mayla. The former has an abrupt start but shifts to playful jangling, faint reckless chorus, and talking and laughing, the band's trademark. Mayla, on the other hand, is a pensive, hymnal piece. The second part of the album includes Child, a delightful number that takes one on a nostalgic trip to old schools like The Carpenters or Peter, Paul and Mary. Ebert's engagement with the ideas of lost innocence comes through straightforward lyrics like "Stay a child, child right now". Next up, Fiya wata belongs to Castrinos as she takes one, with her soulful voice, to the rollicking river and the quaint countryside. The album concludes with All wash out, which has minimal sound — tinkering of the piano, a ruffle of the guitar and a banjo for constant company.
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