ROLLINGSTONE.COM
ROLLINGSTONE.COM

Sometimes I question why I like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a new-age, hippie-ish band, so much. I’ve never thought of myself as a hippie. I certainly would not have been part of the movement if had I been alive — partly because I’m too scared of my parents judgment, but mostly because I like to shower everyday. So why do I, and so many like me, enjoy the 10-piece collective band led by Edward Sharpe, the messianic alter ego of lead singer Alex Ebert? The answer is simple: Those 10 hippies make awesome music.

Unfortunately, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ recent album is probably their worst. Their two previous albums were full of brilliant songs with only one or two missteps. This one is the opposite: It has a few really good tracks while the rest are simply mediocre.

The problem is that much of this album has more of the Kumbaya, sitting-around-a-campfire feel. The second track on the album, “Let’s Get High,” which I thought would be about pot, is actually about getting high on love. Ebert’s voice soars in the song, backed by a funky beat, plenty of tambourine and chorus-style backup lyrics. The song sounds like it would be more at home in the backseat of a’60s Volkswagen Type 2. Probably the worst offender on the album is the song “In the Lion.” When I saw that title, my first reaction was, “What does that even mean?” I’m sure some of you might say, “It’s metaphorical. It gets the people going.”

But I would disagree. I would say that the song, which has instruments that I don’t recognize, a lot of high notes and ridiculous lyrics like, “In the lion, I was holidaying as a vegan,” belongs in the psychedelic dream of a 60-year-old pothead.

Besides those two songs and a couple of boring ones, there are four really great tracks. The first single, “Better Days,” is a fun, uplifting song about a promising future. Ebert’s lyrics are evocative and honest and they’re backed by a catchy drumbeat and angelic vocals. The next great tune is “Life Is Hard,” which is about love’s ability to get people through rough times. A powerful vocal performance by Ebert showcases the full range of his voice. Practically all the instruments from the 10-piece band are audible, from the piano to the drums to the brass. The second half of the song features the exceptional quasi-lead singer of the band, Jade Castrinos. She has a relatively small role but adds depth, her soft, tender voice contrasting perfectly with Ebert’s rough growl. Luckily, Castrinos is spotlighted on “Remember to Remember,” a spiritual song that encourages listeners to remember that with love you are never alone. Castrinos’ vocals echo and soar with emotion.

The best song on the album is its last. “This Life” is at first tragic, but there’s a little twist to it. I simply can’t describe the song well enough to do justice to its genius. What I can say is that the song is perfectly crafted. It’s the song the band was meant to make. If there were a museum for music, this song should be in it. It’s just unfortunate the whole album couldn’t have been this good.

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