I've been listening to a lot of new music that has deep ties to the past, there is nothing repetitious about these sounds, it's not formula driven, it's about taking the spirit and intensity of such a creative period in popular music and harnessing it and the results have been a blessing in a music world seemingly dominated by manufactured pop. To add to the pile of eminently listenable albums is the second release from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The band were formed in L.A in 2007 as a fairly loose collective of musicians for singer/songwriter Alex Ebert, the band has now a more established line-up.
Here embraces aspects of folk music and the burgeoning alt country scene of the late 60's sun drenched in California with it's sense of optimism and hope. This is an album full of soft and sometimes dense vocal harmonies, guitar melodies with psychedelic overtures and pounding percussion. Even though the album has a loose collective feel, it's beautifully produced, every ambient sonic overtone is captured from the swirling horns in Mayla to the thunderous bass lines on One Love To Another which for me is the standout track. A lithe bass line with heavy percussion and some delicate organ, this song captures the enduring spirit of the positive nature of music. The song ponders that even in our present difficulties love can ease the burden, I also love the Carribean lilt of this songs and those wonderfully lazy horns.
It's a hard time a hard time, destitution
It's a hard time a hard time, revolution
It's a hard time a hard time to have a lover
It's a hard time a hard time, modern lover.
One Lover One Lover
One Love and no other
One Love to Another
One love to discover
Diversity and compatibility are hard to incorporate in an album some styles don't mesh but Here captures both each song has a different feel but sits more than comfortably into the overall context of the album. Man on Fire has an acoustic opening and from the initial vocals from Alex Ebert it sounds like a Johnny Cash song before building to a crashing cacophonous middle with soaring vocals and all sorts of woodwind instruments. There is also nice contrasts in the vocals of Ebert and Jade Castrinos.
That's What's Up sounds like something you might have heard from the Simon and Garfunkel songbook with some gospel style vocals from Castrinos, Ebert chimes in with some blissed out fuzzed out guitar harmonics. He follows that into the verse with some dexterous finger picking. The song then fades into an almost joyous excursion into gospel drenched R&B. I Don't Wanna Pray is stripped back with some banjo, played with evangelical glee, to me the song is subtle hint at not being bound by the restrictions of religion but still embracing the ethos of being good.
Dear Believer has a Bob Dylan/Band feel with that bare sound but some nice flourishes especially the organ which is reminiscent of something you would have heard on The Band's debut Music From Big Pink or the lick Al Kooper laid down on Dylan's Positively 4th Street, the song also has those drowsy style horns that The Band favoured on some of their earlier albums.