Edward Sharpe is dead.
That is what every fan of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros might be thinking after seeing the cover of “PersonA,” the band’s latest album. With vocalist Jade Castrinos now gone for good, it remains to be seen what new routes founding member Alex Ebert and the rest of the group will take. But the cover and the title of the album can give us some hints. “Edward Sharpe and” is crossed out on the cover, which might mean that the messianic and romantic character Ebert created a few years ago is gone for good, too. And that is not necessarily a bad sign.
“PersonA” was released April 15 and features 10 songs, perhaps the most authentic songs in the career of the band. There is something paradoxical in this seek for authenticity, considering that “persona” was originally a term designating a theatrical mask. The term has been widely used in psychology to study the different and sometimes contradictory roles a person assumes in diverse social areas of his or her life, which seems to be just the opposite from what is normally considered as “authentic.” But perhaps getting rid of Edward Sharpe also implies that the band is looking for a liberation of sounds, lyrics and music. Without abandoning its hipster and indie roots, the album features Moby-esque musical arrangements, the sudden but also functional detours inspired by The Beatles’ “Abbey Road”—how could you not think of “You Never Gave me your Money” when listening to this record?—and David Bowie’s festive improvisation.
Collectively, “PersonA” is what one would call a “group effort” as most of the songs were written by the 10-member band. Love still represents a huge element of Ebert and co.’s repertoire as “No Love Like Yours” is definitely a remake of “Two,” a song featured in their album released in 2013 “Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros” regarding lyrics and musical arrangements. But a new type of Love emerges in the group’s fifth disc—paternal love. “Lullaby” is a sweet composition dedicated to Ebert’s three-year old daughter dealing with the concerns of parenthood and the “tempus fugit” (time flies) topic. The combination of trumpets, piano and Ebert’s low and deep voice finds a rich balance in “Perfect Time”—dedicated to Castrinos—and “The Ballad of Yaya,” which concludes the album.
Whether Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has finally found a new essence following Castrino’s departure is still debatable, but what is not questionable is that “PersonA” radiates musical authenticity.
P.S. Ebert has a parallel solo career. So if you are both fond of his music and a Bernielover, you should definitely look for “FEEL THE BERN,” a song written and sung by him to support Bernie Sanders’ race for office.