-By Charlie Snedden
Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros are an interesting collective to say the least. Predicting where their music is going to go next is as likely as predicting the weather, the stock market, the lottery results, and whether the city trains will adhere to their schedule all at once. It’s very pleasing to report that with the release of their latest album Person A, they appear to have no intentions of becoming any less delightfully weird. Their mix of traditional folk, country, gospel, jazz, progressive, and psychedelia is at once innovative, challenging, and quite beautiful. While the sum of its parts can be daunting at times, the band appears to know exactly when to pull themselves back into some more rounded songwriting, always saving themselves just when it seems like they might start to get lost in their indulgences, something that other bands of such an experimental nature can sometimes forget to do.
The album begins with Hot Coals and Uncomfortable, two songs that will sound very unorthodox at first to the ears of casual listeners, as tempos, time signatures, and even instruments seem to come and go as they please, making for some very unpredictable, if at times slightly overwhelming music. Delicately plucked steel-string guitar, honky-tonk piano, layered vocals, electronic sound effects, thick bass, jazzy drums, and piercing trumpet are all thrown, whirling into the same sonic pool, seeming to be playing almost completely independently of each other, like a high-school music classroom during prac-time. This sounds like a recipe for disaster, but the sheer audaciousness of the compositions is highly commendable. On top of this, what really allows the nonsense to succeed is that the band never forgets to write good songs underneath it all, and the instrumental chemistry they seem to share is a joy to behold.
What follows is Somewhere, and No Love Like Yours (Which has been released as a single). Two songs which are much more rounded in their compositions, making use of traditional songs structures, steadier rhythmic feels, and an overall more centered sound. Although these songs are still not allowed to be completely without the signature quirkiness, with lyrics that will shift on a dime from dark and melancholy, to bright and cheerful. Sometimes halfway through a line. Throughout the rest of the album, the band switches back and forth between the experimental and the more straightforward methods of songwriting, sometimes within the same song. This allows the album to keep a nice balance of the unknown and the familiar, never losing the listener to a wall of noise or allowing them to see what is coming next.
Person A is very easy to recommend to fans of the band’s previous work. But to simply leave it at that would be a disservice to this interesting and innovative band. While it may seem a strange listen, the unique mixture of the dark and bright, the experimental and the traditional, and the unknown and the familiar allows for a listening experience that can allow the listener to run a spectrum of emotions. Check it out, listen to it from beginning to end, and enjoy a truly unique album in a year that has had too few of them thus far.
Person A is out today 15/4/2016.
Photo Credit: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros