For the past three years, moonlit drum circles and hippie singalongs on beaches and college campuses alike have kept the magic of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros alive from sea to shining sea. Their debut LP, Up from Below, proved to be one of the most darling efforts in reviving indie freak folk and it reached popular circulation, sparking current generations to mimic those joys, emboldened with glamorized ’60s hippie wonderment. While Edward Sharpe has garnered all it could with endless “aw-shucks”-isms and retro appeal, their real challenge comes with their sophomore album, Here, which offers new artistic directions while simultaneously renewing their previous set of songs with an updated spirituality.
In an old Nick Hornby essay about Nelly Furtado’s ”I’m Like a Bird” (find it in his book “Songbook”), he defended well-crafted pop music from the scrutiny the genre receives from music snobs, altogether stating that songs like “I’m Like a Bird” have their worth as interesting and, frankly, fun pieces of music; entertainment and enlightenment can come hand in hand, as much as people shy away from that fact. This circumstantial argument also applies to Edward Sharpe’s popularity, especially their prized badge song: “Home”. Sometimes, the higher you stick your nose in the air, the more you’re missing out on the magic.
In a sense, that’s the approach some will have to take when listening to Here as a whole. Spanning only nine songs, Edward Sharpe maintain their twinkled, dollop o’ honey-esque sweetness with their bucolic instrumentation and slightly seasoned, denser subject matter. The album inadvertently runs the risk of being pigeon-holed by listeners opposed to simpler, more accessible folk-pop tunes. Much like M. Ward’s recent A Wasteland Companion or Alabama Shakes’ Boys & Girls, Here falls under the same strain of records that base their appeal off of a nearly interactive experience: what makes this album great is up to you. The artist has drawn out a blueprint, laid out the tools, and given you the choice of building your own meta-physical creation out it. I don’t mean that in the same way people love a Dave Matthews Band or Phish record or in the same way one could decipher an ambient or post-rock album. It’s unfair to label a group like Edward Sharpe, who constantly try to be loved and understood in a myriad of ways. They’re not interested in putting themselves out there to be judged, scrutinized, or nit-picked. Whether its the cheery best-friend romantics of “That’s What’s Up” or the tactfully spiritual “Dear Believer”, their intent is to be very personal, as if there isn’t an artistic statement to be made, but more of a kindred interaction between you and the audio. They might be on the other side of the stage, but on Here, all Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros want to do is sit next to you, watch the sunset, and understand life a little bit more with you.