August 18, 2009

Review: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below

The song "40 Day Dream" is about a dream so good that narrator Alex Ebert refuses to wake up—"the magical mystery kind," he sings. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros—a Los Angeles-based group comprised of Ebert and nine other musicians—make music along those same lines: it's so infectious you won't be able to turn it off. Seeped in soulful Stax-style melodies and orchestra-caliber percussion, the group's debut Up From Below is a collection of hip-swinging and psychedelic-tinged folk tunes epic in size and classic in quality: a modern day masterpiece that beckons to be heard over and over until you're dizzy with delight.

Up From Below opens with an uplifting assault of soaring strings and choruses in "40 Day Dream" and "Janglin" and proceeds to unfold into an eclectic tapestry of sun-drenched ballads, Laurel Canyon-inspired jams and one Spanish march. "Carries On," with Ebert singing in a more bruised and sombre tone, builds slowly from the sparse pairing of a bass line and snare drum into a Zombies-esque polyphony of voices that seemingly lift the song into a different era.

"Home," a duet with Ebert and girlfriend/band member Jade Castrinos, might be the album's centerpiece: a song based around a catchy and oft-whistled melody that reappears in the repeated phrase: "Home, let me come home/Home is wherever I'm with you." Lyrically it's simple and straightforward, but here, that's a formula for success: a sincere and sweet—but never over the top—celebration of love.
The bearded and lanky Ebert, formerly of dance-rock group Ima Robot, recorded Up From Below with his cast of band mates over the course of a year and a half on an analog 24-track tape machine dated from 1979. The record, like the equipment used to produce it, has a timeless quality that recalls everyone from the Beatles to the Mamas and Papas and Eddie Floyd. In our current over-saturated musical climate, this is that rare feat: one not worth missing.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - "40 Day Dream" (from Up From Below)

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

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