|Rating: 4 / 5
Reviewer: Andrew Mitchell
Imagine being whisked away to some utopian society where love and community rule and worshiping the divine is paramount. Fill it with free spirits: the kind who will just as easily approach you with the offering of a foot washing as they will an uplifting melody. Throw in two spiritual leaders who match the Johnny and June Carter Cash prototype and you’ve entered the world of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
On Here, the follow up to 2009’s debut release, Up From Below, the sound borrows more from the wildly popular single, ‘Home’ than the dreamy sound that pervaded most of that album. It’s the kind of impromptu quality where one minute you can picture the gang sitting around a campfire singing along to an acoustic guitar and moments later on the backporch to a banjo, tambourine and bongos passing smiles back and forth. If Up From Below felt like it was in crossover territory, Here feels completely ensconced in indie folk.
Though boasting an interchangeable list of members somewhere in the double digit territory, it’s lead vocalists Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos who form the heart of the band. Ebert plays spacey, eccentric pontiff Edward Sharpe to infectiously enthusiastic devotee Castrinos. But whereas Ebert fills the spot, it’s Castrinos who demands the attention. Possessing the exuberance of a Minnie Pearl, the twang of a June Carter and the wail of a k.d lang, Castrinos unknowingly grabs the spotlight on the likes of courting song ‘That’s What’s Up’ and the rejoiceful gospel of ‘I Don’t Wanna Pray’, leaving Ebert to fade into the background.
But even Castrinos can only raise the quality of material so far. The pervasive theme of devotional songs with no discernable intent of irony or ulterior meaning tends to leave you uplifted but also a bit empty. Best bet: Drink the kool-aid, throw away the shoes and give your neighbour a hug.