Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros have always been trailblazers in their joyous sound. They are, literally, unlike any other band in their ability to capture the essence of light through their music. Each of their albums is like a unique passage into spiritual enlightenment, with their new album PersonA being one of their best and darkest. Although most will miss the lush voice of Jade Castries, Alex Ebert is messianic in his visions and vocal vibrations for peace.
The Magnetic Zeros have always had a bold, brightening sound with soothing lyrics that promote peaceful/mindful mentalities, and though PersonA continues that upbeat tempo, it also adds layers of somberness never before approached by the band. Although they continue their messages of love and unity, they, more than ever, tackle themes of darkness and violence. If their last album spoke on the need for love, this one explains why. If their last album said ‘war is bad,’ this one tells you what exactly is bad about it. Songs like, “Uncomfortable” and “Perfect Time” are brazenly forward in calling out the wrongness of a world where breakfast and beheadings can occur at the same time. This message is highly important and beautifully sent with a thoughtfulness that only they could muster. What makes PersonA a new turn for The Magnetic Zeros is that in speaking so honestly on the darkness, they shed light upon it.
There is a spiritual maturity and confidence to this album in its audacity to call out social hypocrisy and summon positivity. Alex Ebert is, again, a vocal powerhouse that never fails to bring out sentiments from a song and a listener. He is as vocally free and emotive as in previous albums, yet his tackling of songs is more masterful in its precision. As you hear the album and the intricate details of both Ebert’s vocal annotations and the layers of instrumentals, you feel as if the band planned the smallest note in their desired sound. The album was made in New Orleans and you hear the jazz/creole rhythms and “open jamboree” film. Moreover, New Orleans is a city that has been rocked by devastation, which makes this album’s discussion of darker themes more poignant. While their 2013 self-titled album was bombastic in nature, there is a subtle quietness to this one that is equally charming.
While previous albums made you feel like you could walk in and play with the band, PersonA makes you want to sit back and listen to the magic. This is not to say that they have lost their big, boisterous sound as their song “The Ballad of Yaya” is to them what “Hey Jude” was to The Beatles. Yet, there is more cleanness and clarity in how PersonA is received when listened to. You simply want to lie back, close your eyes, and let the good vibrations make home in your spirit. Although they talk of the natural disappointment, fear, and confusion that comes from a world so dark, they never lose their sense of hope and call for love. This band is one needed by this world, and this album is one needed by you.