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New Music: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Self-titled

Edward-Sharpe

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic ZerosEdward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

1-bam_strokeTop Tracks:
“Country Calling”
“Remember to Remember”
“When You’re Young”

Album Highlights: Far from the ‘janglin’ days of their Up from Below debut, Edward Sharpe and his merry band of Zeros offer a melancholy insight to their band dynamics on the group’s self-titled third album. Although marketed as a band emanating love, friendship and spiritual bliss, ESMZ have obviously hit some emotional potholes over the past four years. Amidst a rigorous touring schedule supporting the release of back to back albums, it’s natural for such a large group of musicians to encounter difficulties within their internal structure. Sometimes this type of turmoil can lead to exceptional musical developments and serve as a creative catalyst. On the other hand, it can result in a contrived cluster-fuck like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ third album.

Musically, the album follows suit with the previous two ESMZ releases, chock full of pop centric choral arrangements and pseudo-revivalist grandeur. Opening with what I assume will be the bands’ single, “Better Days”, they continue to bank on the recipe that has catapulted the group to mainstream success. ESMZ has done what is most familiar and continue to spread neo bohemian bliss to the masses.

The strongest tracks on this album, however, are the songs that deviate from such manufactured joy and actually touch upon their obvious grievances. “Country Calling” and “When You’re Young” manage to keep things positively upbeat and are easily two of the best crafted songs on the album. Other standout tracks include “Remember to Remember” and “They Were Wrong”, where the band ventures out of their cheesy comfort zones and not only tap into alternate musical influences, but also into some real emotional space.

Album Lowlight: Not matter how ESMZ tries to sheath persisting band issues with bouncy melodies and choral reinforcements, every song has an undertone of depression, anxiety and a sense of deflated purpose. They have built themselves into such a positive powerhouse of an act so early in their career that they have plateaued. Having found comfort and success, they’ve pigeonholed themselves into an idealistic standard, and their songwriting capabilities have become stunted. Instead of fully immersing themselves into branching out and taking creative risks with their material, they instead fall back on what they are familiar with, taking their patented sound into abhorrently over-eccentric territory.

The worst offender is a terribly clichéd second track “Let’s Get High”. Encompassing every over-the-top aspect of this band all rolled into one, the feels more like a spoof of anti-establishment protest songs from the Vietnam era than a legitimate track. Other attempts that miss the mark include “Life is Hard”, and “If I Were Free”, both of which come off as pathetic attempts at conveying the bands’ commitment to free love and genuine spirituality — they simply fall short.

Takeaway: The lack of heart behind the songwriting keeps the listener from fully investing in this LP. It’s interesting that this would be the album the LA-based collective would stamp its name on as the title because it’s the least impressive body of music it has recorded. The overall sound is deflated, superficial and lackluster. Had they focused more of their attention on exploring how to convey the messages that are resonating with listeners without caging themselves within inherent limitations, they could grow as a group.

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Comments

  1. yikes that video too, So awkward!

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