I’ve had my eye on Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros ever since I found myself butchering “Home” on a bus ride with 20 other high school students. How could we disagree with a song that so endearingly recalls family roots and jubilantly begs additional voices to join in? Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros has that special ability to summon big group sing-alongs with the sheer magnitude of its sound (the bandmember count tops out around ten) and the pure exuberance of its performance.
The delightful catharsis continues with Here, the band’s sophomore release and the first of two albums they plan to release this year. Here is a slower reward than its predecessor; it doesn’t hit you across the head as much as fill the body with the warmth of familiarity with each additional listen. Whereas their previous album, 2009’s Up From Below, takes on a transitional state of mental rejuvenation, Here is a more resolute state of arrival as the band reaches maturity. Frontman Alex Ebert sings in “Dear Believer”: “The world stood heavy on my shoulders as a child, but I let it go to my waist.” Current success implores Ebert to reflect on a darker past and seek relief in the present.
“Man on Fire” seems to come from the standpoint of Ebert’s alternative, prophetic persona, Edward Sharpe, with its reverberating call to action: “The whole damn world come dance with me.” A revelation of friendship, “That’s What’s Up” is the album’s strongpoint and offers the most instant satisfaction. The song finds Ebert and singer Jade Castrinos sharing vocal duty, reminding us of the call-and-response that gave “Home” so much of its gravitational power.
The final song of the album, “All Wash Out,” manages to take lyrics like “Love is something to believe in” beyond cliché-dom and turn them into something far more resonant: a confirmation of Here’s motif of past doubt and present resolution. Beneath the whimsical piano and humble whistling is a gently haunting retrospection and the conclusive mantra. “Let it all wash out in the rain,” Ebert sings, indicating a fond farewell to earlier times of hardship.