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If you’ve ever wondered what the modern hippie era looks like, well, here you have it. The musical cast of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are the 21st century’s peace-sign-toting flower children. Pick up a copy of their latest album, Here, and it’s quite clear; adorned with psychedelic tie-dye and a trippy rainbow-infused photograph of the band, the album art seems to say it all.
First, let’s start with a fun fact: Alex Ebert, the frontman of Edward Sharpe, attended Emerson College for one year before deciding art school wasn’t for him. With an actress for a mother and a psychotherapist father who enjoyed taking his son for trips into the desert out west, Ebert seems to have had the alternative lifestyle that helped breathe life into this album.
But Here is by no means on the shoulders of one sojourner. The album consists of eighteen talented musicians, offering everything from the ronroco (a Bolivian 10-stringed lute) to the marimba (a folked-up xylophone). The first single off the album, “Man on Fire”, even features the unmistaken sound of a didgeridoo amidst heavy chants, tambourines, and a steady percussion beat.
It’s often hard for a band to come off a successful first album. It’s tough to decide whether to stick with what worked or create something entirely new. Although Here is by no means a paint-by-numbers copy of their debut album, Up From Below, it follows a similar methodology: keep people happy, keep people inspired, and spread the love. “That’s What’s Up” will presumably hit the same fame as “Home” did three years ago, with an adorable duet between Ebert and his lead-lady-vocalist, Miss Jade Castrinos. The song may easily become this year’s anthem to friendship. “I Don’t Wanna Pray” keeps up the attitude, complete with more handclaps, foot stomps, and tambourine rattles. If you play it loud enough, it’s as if Ebert, Castrinos, and the rest of the family are circled around you and jamming with full-fledged smiles.
“Mayla” has a late 60’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” Beatles’ vibe, and the following songs continue the trend. It’s as if the first tracks grab attention, please the radio, and help spread the word, while the remainder go deeper into Edward’s psychedelic, transcendental nature that the band exudes during live performances. Vocals continue, but the tracks are much more focused on eclectic sounds and the journey music can take you on. Ebert’s lyrics echo, grow, and fade, floating just above the rest.
Castrinos takes center stage in “Flya Wata”, a song about the power and the truth of love. “Well/once more the river will flow/For every time it was dry/We’ll all be sharing this river of love/And letting love blaze like fire.” It’s as much a tribute to the goods of this earth as it is to the good in us all.
Here doesn’t get political in the way the 60’s music era has become known for. Rather than stick flowers in the barrels of guns, this band would rather stick flowers in their hair and leave it at that. But, does every 60’s inspired album need to have a call to action or point a middle finger to the system? The artists behind Edward seem to think remembering one’s roots and recognizing the love you feel around you is just fine. While Up from Below could be seen as a story of creationism, Here is about acknowledging the beauty in god’s work. If this album doesn’t make you want to pick up a used tambourine, run through the fields with a daisy in your hair, and collapse on the grass to seep it all in with a child’s eyes, I’m not quite sure what will.