COYOL are yet another example of how in 2004 there was a turning point in the indie music with the release of Arcade Fire‘s ‘Funeral‘ album. That album skillfully combines traditional American folk music with the archetypical New York City indie rhythm section and the melodies of the big arena rock bands. Since then thousands of bands have tried to follow that blueprint to mixed results.
There are those who have taken the lead into some projects worth noting such as the excellent Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros who push the use of dual vocals in addition to adding a country and western twang and a greater use of wind instruments in the orchestration of their tracks.
COYOL in theory might be the natural evolution of this trend. The couples country ballad voices evoke those of Johnny Cash and June Carter and rhythm section arrangements more concise than the band above. The lyrics are personal and engaging such as the brilliant ‘Pharmacist‘; which deals with modern society’s troubles and the anxiety disorders suffered by singer John Isaac Watters. Together with Céleigh Champan they offer a passionate delivery that betrays both their old Southwest and new Los Angeles roots.
Having recorded their self-titled EP in late 2010 COYOL will unveil each of the EP’s six tracks individually, culminating in the full release on September 6, 2011. With unique art produced for each song this is a journey worth pursuing and hopefully they can continue finding their “voice” on their first full LP.
Back in the summer of 2009 I caught Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros storm through their first London performance in the intimate surroundings of The Lexington in North London. Their debut album ‘Up From Below’ was already a regular fixture on my ipod and would deservedly end up as this sites number one album of the year. That night it was immediately obvious to me and the 100 or so people in attendance that we were witnessing something very very special and, dare I say it, spiritual.
In the time since the multi-membered musical cult have played shows across the planet charming and seducing new audiences along the way. Their name has been steadily rising as the music press and blogs began to pay attention helped in no small amount, I’m sure, by the mass appeal of standout track ‘Home‘. My immediate fear when I found out about these upcoming London performances was that some of the intimacy I had observed back in August would be lost on a larger audience.
The counter argument of course is that that that their heightened success has given the band the freedom to further their creative ideas. Ideas like playing 5 consecutive nights at The Old Vic Tunnels for example….
As far as London goes I haven’t experienced many venues as concealed as this one. It took us a good twenty minutes to find despite it only being 5 minutes from Waterloo. On any other day this may have resembled one of the many graffiti blanketed passages in the area but a throng of people outside as well as a massive Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros mural were kind of a giveaway.
Walking into the venue we were presented with a carnivalesque mood with performers and art installations all around. After being frisked by some alien cops (and being rewarded with sweets for it) we wandered around the venue stumbling across one crazy happening after the next. In between massive moon and sun effigies and wandering characters we witnessed a Mardi Gras style funeral whilst avoiding the overpriced beer in the Texan Tavern. The band were not due on stage for another hour but arguably we were already starting to get value for our money.
All of these side shows would have counted for little if the music had not been up to scratch and that was soon put to the test. With the introductory sounds of ‘Janglin’, the band’s de facto anthem, playing over the PA the 10 or so members began zigzagging their way right through the audience to reach the front. With an outbreak of smiles hitting both the stage and the audience the band burst into their first number and I was reminded of what made me fall in love with The Magnetic Zeros to begin with.
The band effortlessly reeled off big tracks like ‘Up From Below’, ‘Carries On’ and a spooky rendition of ‘Desert Song’ inducing mass sing-alongs at every possible occasion. Their sound has seemingly evolved after constantly tourign so that these songs appear to be much bigger and much more of a collective effort in comparison to the recorded versions.
This impression of cohesion and harmony was reinforced by a succession of band members lining up to play “their” songs. This gave us a chance to hear a new song fronted by cool as ice guitarist Christian as well as a sweet Simon & Garfunkel like number titled ‘Every Part Of You’ by excitable pianist Aaron. The highlight of course was hearing the amazing Jade Castrinos deliver a spine chilling rendition of ‘Fire & Water’ which was previously released only on their ‘Itunes Sessions’ EP. With so many talented musicians and vocalists on stage every song culminates in an explosion of melody and energy.
No Edward Sharpe review would be complete without a mention of frontman Alex Ebert. Even in those moments when he is not directly involved in the singing you feel you can’t take your eyes off of him. The shamanistic singer guided his band mates and the crowd throughout the night creating a very real connection. Spending a good portion of the set in the middle of the dance floor he is, as ever, the charismatic cult leader shepherding his followers along the path to ultimate enlightenment.
A brilliant rendition of ’40 Day Dream’ peaks and soars but by this point you got the feeling that half the crowd were waiting for one thing in particular. Of course they wouldn’t be disappointed as the familiar guitar and whistle intro of ‘Home’ eliciting a huge cheer. I fear that this may someday become the band’s equivalent to Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ but for now they still manage to play it with gusto. Compared to the last time I saw them there was noticeably less interaction between the protagonists Alex and Jade as they sung they parts. As a result the song took on a spiritual significance rather than a romantic one but was not worse off for it.
With the glorious notes of ‘Om Nashi Me’ ringing around the venue this would have been a fitting conclusion to a brilliant night but The Magnetic Zeros had more yet more surprises in store. After inviting the audience to a serving of milk and cookies (yes, really!) on the way out they continue continue playing for an extra hour or so just outside the venue surrounded by hundreds of new and old adoring fans.
It would have be sufficient to just show up and play a few songs but once again it feels like I have subscribed to a complete audio-visual experience. It’s precisely this willingness to always go the extra mile that makes this crazy talented bunch a true delight to witness live.
More than anything I get the feeling that Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are having fun doing what they are doing and most of all having fun being together. Perhaps that is the secret to their magic.
I have just returned from seeing Edward Sharpe & The Fantastic Zeros playing at the Old Vic Tunnels near Waterloo. Both the band and the venue were extraordinary and a full review will be up on this pages shortly.
In the meantime here is the video for ‘40 Day Dream‘, the latest instalment in the bands 12-part music video series. The story continues with the character Edward Sharpe meeting the rest of The Magnetic Zeros. If you haven’t seen the previous videos for ‘Kisses Over Babylon‘ and ‘Desert Song‘ then catch them now. You are in for a treat.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ brilliant ‘Up From Below’ album deservedly earned the top spot on the Cougar Microbes Best Albums of 2009 which may suggest we have a weakness for retro-tinged sunny music played by mutiple members. This will go some way to explain the inclusion of the Kopecky Family Band for this year’s list.
‘The Disaster’ was an unexpected treat when we were first exposed to it. Their infectious multi-layered harmonies and carefully delivered dyamics prove to be incredibly rewarding with singers Gabe and Kelsey leading proceedings masterfully with their honey sweet vocals. Cougar collaborator Dorian was quick to include them in his yearly countdown explaining:
“‘The Disaster‘ is one of the standout albums of the year: a breath of fresh air from start to finish. This 7-piece from Nashville,TN combine backgrounds in classical, folk, and rock music to create a truly great sound. I’ve been listening to ‘God & Me’ over and over and over!”
Having only just recently bigged up a new Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros track because it DIDN’T feature the vocals of Alex Ebert, something you can forgive when considering the lovely Jade Castrinos takes over vocal duties, I feel I should immediately compensate.
The idiosyncratic frontman has had a busy year; On top of recording an ‘Itunes Sessions‘ EP with ‘ES&MZ, being on a seemingly non-stop tour and releasing a new album with his original band Ima Robot he has also found time to unleash his first solo single under the Alexander identity.
The track ‘Truth‘ is not a million miles away from ‘Up From Below‘s more introspective moments once again radiating a feel that is ”like a Sergio Leone picture“.
It will be interesting to see how he balances all these projects in 2011 as we await new EdwardSharpe material.
Everyone’s favourite multi-membered multi-talented merry prankster revivalists Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros have recorded a special’Itunes Session’ EP just in time for the holiday season.
The EP features brand new track ‘Fire & Water‘ plus lively reworks of some of the tracks from the brilliant ‘Up From Below‘, though the mega popular ‘Home‘ inconspicuously missing.
When I caught the band live in VictoriaPark two summers ago they performed this new track simply as “Jade’s song” and it was electrifying. Despite not featuring frontman Alex Ebert on this the formidable talent of Jade Castrinos deservedly take centre stage.
Before Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros showed up on the map lead singer Alex Ebert was the frontman for Ima Robot. Now he has returned to his first love with a brand new Ima Robot album entitled ‘Another Man’s Treasure‘.
Gone is the spikiness of the earlier material from the band replaced with a more reflective and dare I say more complete sound. Check out the awesome live action and animation video the band made with director Noaz Deshe for the track ‘Ruthless‘.
In the previous post I featured the remix of ‘Home‘ because we drool over everything Edward Sharpe and because it contrasts nicely with the previous remixes of the song we featured by Party Supplieshere and RAChere.
However this is, arguably, far from Myndset‘s best work. His take on Bill Withers‘ classic track ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ is simply stunning.