Many changes for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros can’t stop new album ‘Persona’ from maintaining high quality

Alec Kuehnle

 We have all wondered, at one point or another, what it would feel like to drop all of our responsibilities and embrace a 1960s hippie lifestyle. Unfortunately, this usually does not make for the most realistic life choice, forcing us to live out our secret hippie life through music. And what better way is there to indulge this fantasy than by listening to indie folk rock band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros?

The group, which sometimes contains 10 members or more, released its fourth studio album, PersonA, Friday. The album possesses significant differences from prior Edward Sharpe releases, but for the most part frontman Alex Ebert and the rest of the group have created another appropriately hippie record.

Most people know Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros from its 2010 single “Home” and the song’s beloved mantra, “Home is wherever I’m with you.” PersonA marks the band’s first album since the departure of vocalist Jade Castrinos, who sang alongside Alex Ebert on “Home.”

Ebert was, and always will be, the key ingredient to the band’s success, but any listener can tell that the band lost an important element when Castrinos left. PersonA does not quite have the same upbeat sound the band has been known for. Certain tracks still capture this musical style, such as “No Love Like Yours,” “Somewhere” and “The Ballad of Yaya.” “No Love Like Yours,” a lead single off the album, does the most to please fans of “Home” with its upbeat vocals, as Ebert sings “No love, no love, no love like yours woman.”

The album takes a turn towards the somber, however, with a lower overall energy than other works. To an extent, this may result from the band growing up and adopting a more mature sound, but it comes across as melancholy. Tracks like “Hot Coals” and “Wake Up The Sun” showcase deep, emotional vocal work from Ebert.

Unfortunately, a few tracks just never seem to end– ever. “Uncomfortable” repeats the name of the song over and over again until the listener has no choice but to feel that exact sentiment. While the band may have done so purposely (and if so, bravo), it goes on far too long. “Wake Up The Sun” falls into the same category. These songs have good qualities, but they could easily end a minute or two sooner.

It would be a mistake to overlook the cover of the album. Of course, the LP cover reads “Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros,” but with “Edward Sharpe and” crossed out, leaving only “The Magnetic Zeros.” It remains unclear what exactly Ebert and the rest of the band wanted to convey from this. Maybe they feel they have changed after losing Castrinos or maybe the band’s different sound incited them to leave behind the Edward Sharpe persona. After all, the band does not contain a member by the name of Edward Sharpe. Instead, the name functions basically as Alex Ebert’s alter ego. Ebert previously said the Edward Sharpe alter ego helped him find himself again and embark upon the right path in life after being in rehab.

Either way, The Magnetic Zeros have definitely come to stay, with or without Edward Sharpe. Overall, this album does not contain as much of the hippie pizzazz that characterized the band’s previous work, but the downtrodden sound of PersonA will still be a hit around the commune.

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