ALBUM REVIEW: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – PersonA

Indie favourite sing-a-long band and creator of the upbeat and catchy song “Home”, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has released a new album sans Jade Castrinos, the band member who arguably made “Home” the hit it was. The latest album PersonA is their fourth release, and their darkest and most self-reflective to date, evident from the choice of album cover and the inclusion of an ‘explicit’ rating alongside a number of the tracks.

The fictitious character Edward Sharpe was created by band member Alex Ebert as an alter ego, in his quest for identity while in rehab. The album cover features the band’s name, with everything but The Magnetic Zeros crossed out in red, on top of an indistinctly ominous face – a notable departure from the previously cheery and bright covers of their previous three albums. It is telling that the band chooses to shed this persona, possibly spurred on by Castrinos’ departure, a move towards a darker and fuller sound, as well as the fact that the album was written by the entire band as a whole – moving away from Ebert being symbolised as the leader of the band.

The first track off PersonA is “Hot Coals”, a rewarding promise to all the fans who waited patiently for three years between albums. The song is not a far cry from their previous tracks with the focus of love still very much in place, yet it does include a greater influence on the instrumental side of things, missing from previous albums. “Uncomfortable” like the name suggests, introduces the listener to a bolder effort from the band, as Ebert urges listeners to “get uncomfortable” and out of the familiar comfort zone, they came to enjoy in the other albums. Its crescendo build up is never quite reached, and what was an opportunity to exhibit exactly what The Magnetic Zeros has to offer is somewhat missed on this track.

“Somewhere”, “Wake up the Sun” and “Perfect Time” are similar to previous songs like “This Life”, and less likely to polarise fans. The songs are lighter than all the other tracks on the album, singing about restlessness and disillusionment in life and relationships in the upbeat way the band has mastered. “No Love Like Yours” could have featured on any other the previous albums and fit in perfectly. The song sings about the central idea the band deals with – unique love between people, unlike anyone else’s. “Free Stuff” and “The Ballad of Yaya”, a Simon and Garfunkel-esque melody, are catchy yet lack the substance that made previous tracks such hits.

There is no singular standout track on the notably short album. While together the album works well, it lacks uniformity in expressing what Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros intends to reflect. Perhaps it would have been wiser for the band to drop the beginning of their name entirely, in order to demonstrate their commitment to self-reflective thought and change, instead of attempting to merge their new course of direction with their previous efforts that made them famous.

6/10

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