“The Magical Mystery Kind”
May 24, 2011 by Mateo Rocha
American singer and songwriter, Alexander Ebert, and the colorful tale of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
With the latest album release, Up From Below (2010), Alexander Ebert and his gypsy-traveling friends have introduced yet another interesting and one-of-a-kind musical group, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Edward Sharpe meant much more to Alex than just another musical escapade; there was a spiritual and personal tie with his decision to form this band of feel-good musicians.
An ex-drug addict, Alex had almost hit a rock bottom with his old L.A. party-band, Ima Robot. As quoted from the LA times, “I used to say my primary motivation was getting things done before I die. I was getting a lot of things done, but I was a mess,” Alex says. “I ended up on a lot of drugs; I basically lost myself. The last two years we were on the major label, I became an automaton — I became a robot,” said Alex.
Leaving Ima Robot and breaking up with his girlfriend was a small step for recovery in Alex’s life. Along with taking small steps into sobriety, Alex had created an alter ego named Edward Sharpe to help give him a new identity where his slate was clean. This was the birth of what is now an 11-member band, full of harmonic chanting mixed in with indie-folk sounds, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
Up From Below invokes a kind of spiritual feel when listening to the melodic lyricism of Alex and the simplistic beats performed by the other ten members in each and every song. With a message, such as the one in the song Up From Below, Edward Sharpe says that he’s sinned, lost, and abused his life, but now he will come “up from below.” He paints the feeling vividly with colorful language such as, “I’m riding on hell’s hot flames… after all the blood I’ve spilled, only trying to get killed.” The sound of the trumpet in the background mixed in with the steady piano make the overall song feel hopeful, despite the melancholic lyrics.
Most of the songs on the album have a feel-good vibe to them; thus the state of the feel-good musicians for the members of Edward Sharpe. All of the messages revolve around a central philosophy of love. The words are tied in with constant changing vocal pitches and a steady, folksy sound of the rhythmic instruments. There are over ten instruments used in the making of the songs, which include but are not limited to acoustic guitars, pianos, violins, flutes, trumpets, chimes, electric basses, snare drums, marimbas, cellos, and multiple vocals from all ranges in pitch.
There is a faint resemblance of revival music in the musical masterpiece that is Edward Sharpe, but the main characteristic that makes up this musical group is the resourcefulness of its sounds. There are never too many or too few beats hit in a song. There is no congestion of sound with Edward Sharpe, where other bands tend to clog their songs with as many crazy sounds as they can fit into one measure. The songs are planned out beautifully to where there is a steady build-up to a chorus or interlude, but also carry a steady rhythm that can catch anyone’s attention. Whistling, clapping, chanting, and clicking can be heard on all of their songs, which to me make for – like in their song 40-Day Dream – a “magical mystery kind.”
For more information on Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, you can check them out on their Myspace page (Myspace.com/edwardsharpe), or buy their full-length album on iTunes.