When Alex Ebert left indie-electronica group Ima Robot, a switch somewhere inside of him flipped on an electric current. He grew a beard, met a lovely muse and convinced 10 people to join a musical commune he called Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
The Los Angeles folk-rock group channels a Laurel Canyon vibe—Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas and the Papas, The Byrds—on its first full-length album, Up From Below. Most of the old-school pop influence was excised, edging the Magnetic Zeros closer to rock like Arcade Fire and Devendra Banhart's slower tempo folksiness.
But the retro-feel is truly a lifestyle choice for Ebert and his Magnetic Zeros, who travel around the country in a white school bus like Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, confirming their innate hippie-dom. But Up From Below isn't just a collection of throwaway songs about peace and love. Buried in the lyrics, like hidden clues on a treasure map, are references to The Beatles, Edgar Allan Poe, Jesus, Jack Kerouac and J.D. Salinger.
One song guaranteed to get stuck in your head is "Home," an Ebert and Jade Castrinos sing-song duet that's drawn comparisons to Johnny and June Carter Cash. Ebert and Castrinos, his green-eyed muse, trade rhythmic, almost childish couplets like "Alabama, Arkansas, I do love my ma and pa," and intertwine them with lovey-dovey declarations, "But not as much as I do love you."
Somehow, it works.