Firstly, the line through ‘Edward Sharpe’ in the title of the bands new album is no mistake. Bouncing back from their third and previous self-titled release, the band are “putting a literal strike” through that perplexing phase in their career. Edward Sharpe was the messianic alter ego the bands vocalist Alex Ebert developed for himself on a quest to find himself, and “heal mankind”. And with that approach pioneering their sound, indie folkers Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros proclaimed themes of love as a spiritual force through their lyrics, sometimes to an almost painful extreme. But with the departure of then secondary vocalist Jade Castrinos, the band appear now to be broadening their topical horizons, as well as dipping into newer, more exciting sounds.
Hot Coals was released late last year, and is also the opening song to PersonA.Quite unlike their most recently released music prior to it, this song is brimming with diligence. Ethereal and wispy in parts, and cascading into multi-layered soundscapes in others, even delivering funky horns and jazz piano. And the deviance from the typical indie-folk expectations does not stop there. The newly introduced jazz influence also serves the band well with Let It Down, where minor-heavy piano and pointillistic drumming take centre stage alongside Eberts heartfelt drones of “Let it die/Let it be/Let it heal from your memories”. And along withWake Up The Sun, this song comes to a gratifyingly unexpected end, increasing the energy and inviting you into a sonic experience.
Still remaining true to their roots though, Free Stuff and closer The Ballad of Yagaare full of the same 1967 indie-folk-meets-hippie-psychedelia flair. But even these songs deliver with a punch we haven’t yet felt from the Magnetic Zeros. Their change in direction is sharp, direct and deliberate, and although they are a band of 10, working on the album “almost entirely in one room together” this time seems to have enabled the band to flourish. PersonA is a welcome re-birth of a sound that was losing grip, and the bands risk has certainly favoured them.