Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zerosself-titled, third album is described by lead singer Alex Ebert as their most “liberated” yet. Ebert, partner-in-crime Jade Castrinos and company seek to reclaim the joy of childhood through the all-powerful force of love yet again, but their Polyphonic Spree vibe toes the line between two paths. While getting “high on [their] love,” one is torn between being “welcomed home” to the warm wilderness brotherhood of a Rainbow Gathering, or being forced into a suicide cult, complete with a charismatic, messiah-complex leader. Altogether, its 12 songs form a religious service set to doo-wop, which is certainly a better makeover for the church than salvation tweets, come to think of it. While, as an added bonus, they somewhat suppress their ‘Genericana‘ urges, so fans can get their love-commune jollies without feeding the musical Astroturf industry.

Better Days

Thankfully, Sharpe/Ebert relies less on “some cliché shit” here than he had on “Home.” He uses a Bob Marley-doing-guest-vocals-for-The Temptations inflection to promote a more realistic positivity – one that faces actual adversity – over The Magnetic Zeros’ psychedelic soul-pop gospel: [LISTEN]

"Better Days"

Let’s Get High

Shooting pure love straight into my veins won’t get me high enough to find this anything but cheesy. The all-inclusive Beatles theme and doo-wop-and-roll beat are marred by ultra kitsch slide whistles, and a beaten to death ‘love is a drug’ approach. But, like “Jesus,” this 50’s pop outro saves: [LISTEN]

"Let's Get High"

Two

As the saying goes “two is better than one,” so Sharpe recommends to never do solo what you can do as a duet. This finger-picky jaunt picks up the album’s pace in order to also remind us  that consuming love for three meals a day is USDA-recommended – what a shocking thematic twist: [LISTEN]

"Two"

Please!

The campfire sing-along ballad “Please!” serves more corny ‘love conquers all’ slogans, although some choice witticisms are sprinkled in (see featured lyric). This relentless positivity doesn’t make for musical sin in itself, but even Lutheran liturgy is less lyrically repetitive: [LISTEN]

"Please"

Country Calling

“Country Calling” takes a swift left turn, only dropping the magical “L-word” twice. Instead, Ebert states the obvious – no one with a soul, lungs, or a need for real love should live in LA. So, he “packs up his things” to “taste clean air.” It’s a welcome break from the love-worship clamoring: [LISTEN]

"Country Calling"

Life is Hard

Even when Ebert’s lyrics are just bundled-together sayings, they can still hit a satisfying climax. The old-school R&B ballad draws out its peaks with extra chords for suspense, making complaining about life’s difficulty feel surprisingly empowering and “celebratory:” [LISTEN]

"Life is Hard"

If I Were Free

The Magnetic Zeros may be a collective of lyrically self-labeled “flower children” troubadours who employ overwhelming echoes of psychedelic-era Beatles on this album, but they recognize that they aren’t truly in a “free” utopia just yet: [LISTEN]

"If I Were Free"

In the Lion

The Zeros’ take on George Michael‘s “Faith“ (and many other Bo Diddley cop-outs) tweaks the formula with Rastafari references thrown on top, swaddled between two tons of reverb and reverse delay, all of it tied together with an obligatory love-centric refrain (a requirement for every Sharpe track): [LISTEN]

"In the Lion"

They Were Wrong

Ebert again channels Johnny Cash, this time focusing on Cash’s low-baritone pipes. Perhaps it’s just that “…Wrong” breaks up their rainbows-shooting-out-of-all-orifices vibe, but this piece’s hopelessly dark tones are actually a relief, and lyrically light-years ahead of his last Cash-ism: [LISTEN]

"They Were Wrong"

In the Summer

Props to Ebert for including a line about “masturbating” in this playful/lazy summer jam. He continues to depict every part of your past summer experiences from “loner girls” to “graffiti boys” in a “television world,” all while his band use some background hype-man vocals borrowed from Arcade Fire: [LISTEN]

"In the Summer"

Remember to Remember

Castrinos takes the lead on “Remember,” drawing between gospel, classic rock, and some Mamas & the Papas. The Zeros praise Mother Gaia with an offering of – you guessed it – love. Sometimes, this album’s persistence just hints that the matching track shoes and special Kool-Aid are on their way: [LISTEN]

"Remember to Remember"

This Life

Ebert vows selfless service to an ambiguous “you” from now on, the “death/friend” line hinting “This Life” is a rehab jam indebted to either a partner or God. Whatever the meaning, the hard classic rock techniques (rented directly from The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling”)  feel damn good: [LISTEN]

"This Life"