Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
By name alone, folk music is communal and inclusive, but its fan base can be notoriously weary of outsiders. Case in point: despite having one of the few genuine folk-rock crossover hits in recent years with "Home," Alex Ebert (the frontman and songwriter for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes) is often derided as a poseur, a guy who jumped from electro-punk outfit Ima Robot into a symbolic VW bus without apparent hesitation. Such backlash is puzzling though since musicians, particularly of Ebert's generation, make genre leaps all the time. He and the Magnetic Zeroes might overdo it with the faux-hippie outfits and lyrics, but such things don't conceal their often-excellent pop songwriting; if anything, they enhance it - making up a character for yourself is better than having no character at all, a sin of so many "credible" folk artists. Questions of authenticity are valid, but when they supersede discussion of the music itself something is amiss. The Zeroes' second album, Here, deserves the benefit of the doubt. The short and sweet collection is by turns eerie ("Man On Fire"), warm ("Dear Believer"), goofy ("That's What's Up") and sincere ("Fiya Wata"). To put it simply, Ebert and crew are capable of occupying many modes of folk songwriting without losing their sense of melody and eagerness to please. Too many bearded men in isolation have sapped such joy from the genre, but Here brings it back in full.
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