Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros | Here

Community Music (2012)
By JONATHAN DONALDSON  |  May 22, 2012
3.5 3.5 Stars

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Maybe I'm feeling the ghost of Levon Helm, but it's hard to find many flaws in this new disc from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Without Ray Lamontagne's writerly maudlin streak or Arcade Fire's song-hawker zealousness, Here nonetheless manages to exhibit just a little of both. These nine songs combine folk and indie-rock in a loosely produced midnight hootenanny that, while sepia-toned, is much more than sentimental fare. This is no Boy Scout jamboree: the Magnetic Zeros have both a sing-along community spirit and a lyrical bent that suggests a friendly sectarian church. In "That's What's Up," singers Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos harmonize, "I'll be the church you be the steeple" — their treble-tweaked voices nearly matched by the gurgling of a funky clavinet. "I Don't Wanna" finds the medicine show exulting, "I love my God, God made love;" the banjo strum and porch-stomp reminding us not to be afraid of the g-word — gospel music. For all the communal vibe on Here, Ebert's frontman charisma stabilizes the album's genre-hopping (folk, gospel, rock, reggae, soul, etc.). On "Man on Fire," he leads the band through a meditative choral hum into a honky-tonk spree with a quiet passion somewhere between Leonard Cohen's hymnal grace and Bruce Springsteen's street-poet cool. Even at his most average ("All Wash Out"), the scruffy singer channels a groovy '70s AM-radio pop-soul vibe that's unblemished by melisma or other excesses. At his worst ("Child"), he's a little precious. The real test at this point would be the Magnetic Zeros' live show. If they can match the record's spontaneity — rather than recreating it note-for-note — they'll have something truly special.

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