While “Home,” “40 Day Dream” and “Janglin” are the joyous, bubbly, go-to favorites from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes’ debut album, there is one song that rose above those anthems to stick with me on a deeper level. While it didn’t have the same peaks and valleys, and the chorus wasn’t nearly as catchy, the album’s title track, “Up From Below,” was captivating and beautiful in a subdued way, sounding just as much of a prayer hymn as an indie rock song.
While the band’s debut album took the “Up From Below” name, the song’s calm tone and energy is found throughout the entirety of Here, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes’ much-anticipated follow-up. Full of reflective, soul-searching chants and quiet explosions of horns and drums, Here is an album that builds on the cathartic, communal atmosphere the band has been developing since its inception.
Setting the mood, and the precedent for the album, is the quiet, wonderful “Man On Fire.” Led by lead singer Alexander Ebert’s gentle voice, with haunting, hushed group vocals backing him up, and intense percussion fading in and out with the clanging of chimes, it feels like a perfect song to kick off Here.
“I Don’t Wanna,” “Mayla,” and “Dear Believer” keep the passionate tone of the album’s opening track. “Mayla” opens up with a relaxed group hum over maracas and guitars – it’s another song that could be chanted along in a temple or church. “I Don’t Wanna” and “Dear Believer,” similarly, contain lyrics like “I love my god, god made love,” and “reaching for heaven is what I’m on earth to do.”
On tour, the band seems to view its concerts as some sort of hippie religious experience, with “raise me up” type moments – all made more theatrical by the fact that “Edward Sharpe” is not a real person, but a messiah-like character that Alexander Ebert is playing. There is, however, a ton of real, genuine emotion evident throughout the live performances, and throughout this album.
Even “That’s What’s Up,” the only legitimately loud song on this album (and probably the best), has a chill, calm vibe to it. The big, over-the-top chorus (“you’ve got my love to lean on darling,” Ebert and Jade Castrinos sing together in the only track on Here that gives “Home” a real run for its money) leads right back into some laid-back fiddling around on a funky electric guitar. In the same vein, “Fiya Wata,” in which Castrinos’ soulful vocals are the focal point, surrounds itself in a twang-filled, down-home southern rock wash of piano and guitar.
Since Here is so laid-back and calm overall, there are inevitably a few moments so chill that they bore. Christian Letts takes lead vocals on “Child,” and while his voice is good, it doesn’t make that same immediate connection that Ebert does. “One Love To Another” is a interesting take on a reggae tune, and will certainly earn repeated listens in the future, but it’s definitely monotonous and tiring by the end.
Minor flaws aside, Here is a great sophomore album that casts Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes in a different light, but keeps the band’s overall sound and feeling intact.