One of the most memorable concerts I’ve ever attended was a performance by the Arcade Fire on a warm September evening in Central Park in 2005. It wasn’t just that the music was good (the surprise guest appearance by David Bowie didn’t hurt); it was also the fact that they, as a band, were having so much fun playing together. This gang of Gen-Y rock stars had a shared dynamic between them that transmitted pure unity and joy, inviting us into the same ecstatic collective communion that they were delighting in together on stage. The fact that there were 9 or 10 of them up there definitely had something to do with it, too.
But most of all, what they were sharing between them exuded soul.
Next Tuesday, another band—weaving together a similar fusion of folk rock and alt rock, albeit with stronger folk leanings—with a similar number of members (10 or 11) are coming out with their second full-length studio album, and the word on the street is that they’ve got plenty of soul to go around, as well.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros have a distinctly retro style fronted by lead singer Alex Ebert, who says that “Edward Sharpe” is the name of a fictional messiah figure from a story he was working on when he decided to form the band. “He was sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind,” Ebert tells music critic Richard Parks. “But he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love.”
The juxtaposition of transcendent mysticism and earthly desires seems to be the defining characteristic of Ebert and Company’s music, transmitted through folksy ballads and soulful lyrics that you can’t help feeling uplifted by.
You can experience it yourself at NPR’s First Listen, where you can hear the new album in its entirety. And below is a performance of their song “Home,” from their first album, on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2009:
You can see their 2009 performance in the NPR studios here.