Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros first entered the public consciousness in 2009 with their signature hit "Home." Their folksy, throwback sound arrived before bands like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons came to define the genre. Now on the heels of the release of their self-titled third album, the band is beginning to feel like a psychedelic parody spinning its wheels.
A collaboration between singers Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos resulted in Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros being formed in 2007. The band rose to prominence a few years later with their single "Home" charting in multiple countries and being used commercially as well. The almost hippie commune brigade regularly consists of 10 members with additional individuals added for touring purposes. Folks only familiar with "Home" might be surprised to discover that the band is actually more of a 60's/70's experimental outfit who just so happens to have a folk hit.
At first listen, I thought something may have been wrong with my audio setup when I started playing Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. I switched my setup and nothing improved, leading me to the conclusion that the sound production and mixing on this album is one of the worst I've ever heard. When more than one instrument joins a song, the track is a muffled mess of noise. Now I realize the band is emulating music from a bygone era, but it doesn't have to have the audio quality of a cassette tape that's been forgotten under your driver's seat for decades. Even worse, the majority of the album escapes your memory immediately after listening. Ebert's use of falsetto on "Please!" is grating and, some might say, annoyingly repetitive. Later, Ebert channels his inner Bob Dylan for the track "If I Were Free." The result is a chintzy homage that feels more like schtick than anything of substance.
For fans of musical past there are a few, albeit small, glimmers of hope on the album. “Let’s Get High” is a marvelous hippie rock jam, but it begins to wear out its welcome at nearly seven minutes in length. “Country Calling” has a catchy hook and feels like the only contemporary track on the entire album as Ebert yearns to leave Los Angeles behind. Castrinos gets a chance to shine solo on “Remember To Remember” and for that reason alone it becomes a refreshing change of pace from the predictable norm. If you’re in the mood for some old-school psychedelic rock, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros is for you. Listeners only familiar with “Home” will probably want to stay just there.