Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are a ten-piece American indie folk band that formed in Los Angeles almost a decade ago. The quirky and somewhat unusual name, comes from a story that the group’s lead singer Alex Erbert wrote about a religious figure named Edward Sharpe. The band first arrived on the major music scene in 2009 with the release of their debut album Up From Below and now they are back with their highly anticipated fourth studio album PersonA. The album was released on the 15th of April, under their new label Community Music.
The evolution of this band over the past nine years has been extraordinary. According to their front man, the music was always secondary to the social element but now they have become a great band of great musicians that play really well together. The original idea behind the group was that they formed almost a family unit of honorary brothers and sisters, that were entirely equal in the success of the group as well as, and more importantly in the responsibility that comes with it.
Lead singer Erbert found himself taking on the burden of the song-writing almost in entirety, whilst remaining to split the profits equally, which is where the idea to invite the entire band to his studio in New Orleans came from. For the first time in their nine years together, the band collectively wrote their latest album which has resulted in their most creative and ambitious music to date. That combined with the influence of the jazz scene in the city has given the groups a fresh, new and improved sound that is worth getting excited about.
The album’s opening track “Hot Coals” is twice as long as a typical track, at over seven minutes. It starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar opening, that sounds almost harp like in the plucking pattern of the melody. Erbert then joins with his crisp and pure vocals, that have a hauntingly stunning echo sound.
The entrance of the piano is particularly interesting in this track, highlighting the previously mention New Orleans jazz influence. The leaping piano bass line with syncopated jazz chords along with the band’s typical folk sound is something that on paper shouldn’t work but in reality is an inspired and interesting blend.
The album’s closing track entitled “The Ballad of Yaya” is a complete contrast to its opener, the piece starts with a solemn and rather unpredictable brass introduction, rather than the racing guitar. When the guitar does then enter, with the vocals, is has a much more mellow and in some ways sad mood, which you would expect from a ballad as suggested by the title.
My personal favourite song from the album is the calming and beautiful third track “Somewhere“. The delicately plucked, broken chord guitar introduction sounds like a sweet child’s lullaby. The decision to use clapping and clicking as the percussion, fits perfectly with this idea as it is childlike and a lot less harsh than a snare drum and a cymbal. In this particular track, I can hear similarities or perhaps influences from some older songs such as the Beatle’s “Here Comes The Sun” and I can see this song becoming a classic, just as those have.
PersonA is not only Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s newest album, but also their strongest and most rounded album to date. Whether this is due to the intense making of the album, with the ten members enclosed within a room for the duration, the influence of the groups new label, or maybe even that of jazzy New Orleans. Whatever the reason behind it, the same should definitely be done for their, hopefully, soon to come fifth album.
is out now via Community Music Group, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Emma Exelby