Edwin Arnaudin – Staff Writer
Rating: 4.5 Stars
In “Man on Fire,” the opening track from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ Here, frontman Alex Ebert lays out an ambitious request: “I want the whole damn world to come dance with me.” Not one to leave listeners hanging, Ebert and his troupe of merry musicians provide enough toe-tapping, knee-slapping moments over it and the album’s eight subsequent tracks to make his wish a reality.
Employing the same eclectic epic folk that made 2009’s Up From Below such a joy, the 11-piece ensemble from Los Angeles deliver another stunner. Tracks from their debut popped up on commercials ranging from Ford to the NFL, and it’s easy to image Here’s contents enjoying similar exposure.
With a mastermind like Ebert at its center, success is nearly a given. His catchy melodies exude a sense of timelessness, at once familiar and innovative, yet never dull. Whether here or on his solo project, Alexander (one of whose tracks made an episode of Breaking Bad), the man has yet to record a tune that doesn’t grab your attention. About the only knock against his latest disc is that it’s a measly 37 minutes, but with promise of another album later this year, such brevity is easily forgiven.
On Here, Ebert again conjures up religious themes and imagery, namely angels (“Child”), churches (“That’s What’s Up”), and preachers (“All Wash Out”). “I Don’t Wanna Pray” finds him thanking God, but in keeping with the album’s title, he’d rather focus on living and doing good deeds in the present. Likewise, on “Dear Believer” he admits from a clear terrestrial locale that “reaching for heaven is what I’m on Earth to do.” The combined effort has all the potential of a dry sermon, but Ebert wraps it in a old-timey tent revival style, throws in a little Graceland-era Paul Simon (“One Love to Another”), and makes it go down easy.
The group’s music and robe-friendly wardrobe may have more in common with a hippie California cult than mainstream Christianity, but it’s all part of their appeal. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are the happiest, most fun cult you’ll ever (vicariously) join and the sonic Kool-Aid of Here is among the best around. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Don’t Miss – “Fiya Wata”
Ebert cedes the mic to Jade Castrinos on this big, soulful number and she doesn’t disappoint. Seemingly beamed direct from Woodstock or Monterey, Castrinos wails with the lungs of Grace Slick and the ensemble’s slow, layered rocking does her sound justice.
OK to Skip – “Child”
There’s truthfully no need to dodge anything on Here, but after a series of anthems that echo off the canyon walls, “Child” is so subdued that it’s the clear oddball of the bunch. Still, even with an acoustic guitar as his prime accompaniment, Ebert sounds twenty feet tall.