Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros first gained recognition in 2009 with the release of their debut album Up From Below, which featured the hit single “Home” (you know, that catchy duet between Alexander Ebert and Jade Castrinos that every group from the NFL to the CW’s Gossip Girl decided to use). Their sophomore release Here (2012) carries the same earnest folk-throwback sound as their debut, but disappoints overall. According to Ebert, Here will be the first of two Magnetic Zeros albums released this year (so here’s to hoping the second is better).
The first track, “Man On Fire,” is likely to be the only single of the nine. While starting the album off strong, it ultimately outshines its successors (sidebar: its music video touches on an idea of community that is essential to both albums, and is enjoyable to boot). The second track–“That’s What’s Up”–has Castrino taking the lead on a clap-along that’s initially reminiscent of rhymes recited as a kid at recess. Lyrically, the song rehashes a tried and true formula but remains enjoyable.
Now, the third track, “I Don’t Wanna Pray,” marks the beginning of the album’s deterioration. It begins with a bible-thumping “I love my God / God made love,” and at each recital Ebert replaces love with something similarly predictable (i.e. hate, war and me) before launching into the banjo-picking porch-stomping perky melody. Honestly, the tune is catchy enough that you’ll probably catch yourself humming along, but the vocals-only chanting that bookends track three is, to me, off-putting.
But from there. . . “Mayla” involves communal humming, a painful Santana-like guitar solo that rises to the forefront and then slinks away, possibly ashamed at its own inclusion, and an overall vibe so slow it hurts. “Dear Believer” and “Child” (the latter sung by Christian Letts who had previously been regulated to background vocals) fall prey to the same problems that riddle “Mayla”–they’re quiet, repetitive, and so chill they bore.
“One Love to Another” is their interesting take on reggae, but, in the same vein as the last three, is tedious and has your fingers itching to hit next. On “Fiya Wata,” Castrinos’ soulful vocals partially redeem the earlier tracks with a southern rock tune filled with the twanging of guitars. The final track “All Wash Out” doesn’t do anything particularly special, and by that point you’re ready to change artists anyway.
After their impressive start with “Man On Fire,” Here falls short of expectations. Full of communal and cathartic songs, their sophomore release will remind you of ‘70s folk, Volkswagen vans and daisy chains, but ultimately feels uninspired.