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Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes Here

Released 25 May 2012
Producer Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Label Rough Trade
Length 37:58
Genre Indie, alternative
Website edwardsharpeandthemagneticzeros.com

Ed Sharpe (AKA Alex Ebert of Ima Robot fame) and his merry troupe of vagabonds return with sophomore effort Here, following their slow-burning debut Up From Below that eventually propelled them into mainstream success, mostly on the back of lead single 'Home'. While the band never quite achieved the ‘Hippy Arcade Fire’ status they’d been promised by critics, Up From Below helped them make countless festival appearances worldwide and 'Home' was featured on numerous TV dramas and ads. Here sees the band more structured in their songwriting; they’ve grown as a group but are more relaxed in their playing style and Alex is strikingly more comfortable as frontman as they transplant sixties and seventies soul, funk, country and reggae to the modern day.

On opener 'Man on Fire', more polished production is immediately noticeable with a tighter full-band sound as the group continues their tradition of singalongs (complete with ‘umms’). Alex sings that despite the bands success, he’s still content to, “walk down your street with one guitar and two dancing feet”. 'That’s What’s Up' features a Creedence-like groove as Alex and female vocalist (and Ed’s laydee) Jade Castrinos vocally bounce off one another as the two lovers metaphorically look into each others eyes and gush. They still sound great together and it never appears that they’re singing to anyone else but each other. With claps and singalongs similar to 'Home', the band channels a more pop influence this time around, and that ain’t a bad thing.

'I Don’t Wanna Pray' dabbles in raw soul and Alex’s tone remains svelte as he sings, “I love my God, God made good”. The band retains their ‘anything goes’ policy as regards instrumentation, and there’s an obvious carefree ‘pick up something and shake/ bang it’ attitude that resonates throughout. Album centrepiece 'Mayla' initially takes on a Velvet Underground chord structure and pop sensibilities before growing into a full-band singalong with some electric guitar legato behind it. It’s a nice ‘lighters up’ moment but the added horns and bass groove make the song almost danceable.

'Dear Believer' is the most pedestrian track on the album. It’s more of the same; the band knows their format and they’re well equipped to write good, hummable songs. Acoustic number 'Child' sees Alex give his voice a Johnny Cash-esque twang. His vocals are altogether more relaxed this time around and the bravado of Up From Below is put to the side.

'One Love to Another' has a reggae tinge and an energetic groove; the chorus line, “It’s a hard time, destitution. It’s a hard time, revolution” is something Bob Marley might have preached. On 'Fiya Wata' Jade gets her moment after taking a backseat for much of the album. The song has a Grateful Dead/ San Francisco in the sixties vibe and Jade’s voice contains an abundance of feeling and joie de vivre, bound to provoke an audience reaction in a live setting. Closer 'All Wash Out' sees Alex lament, “All my crooked fingers pointing blame, let it all wash out in the rain”. A nice rain sample and background piano jangles, along with Alex’s trademark whistles and claps and the layering of horns helps bring the album to an emotional close.

While the central lyrical themes of Love, God and The Church can at times fell overly wholesome, this is an assured sophomore effort and will make for an excellent soundtrack to what’s left of the summer. Those seeking depression should look elsewhere.

- Cathal Prendergast