Love Is What’s Up On Edward Sharpe Followup

May 30, 2012

Around the time that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros released Up From Below, I read in the music press that singer-visionary Alex Ebert had to go to rehab and get clean and sober before he could create the Edward Sharpe mythos and make this wild dreamy happy music. When I finally got to see this band’s live show on the Railroad Revival Tour, I couldn’t help being alarmed by Alex’s aura of frantic and antics of folly. If this isn’t a relapse, it must be some old-time religion.

When gathered as a band, they’re not just messengers of love, they’re old school troubadours, and they are also poets, painters, photographers, and chefs.

On the follow-up album Here, we see some solid evidence that it’s not bad drugs but good religion that’s cascading all over my ears.

The record shifts from subtle woozy hypnotic gospel pop to overt folksy gospel revival, channeling a mystical mashup of Johnny and June Cash meets John and Yoko with mild dashes of Jack and Meg meets Sonny and Cher.  It’s all Up With People meets the Allman Brothers down at the groovy altar call. Permanent summer camp is in session, and we’re all drunk on the non-alcoholic communion grape juice.

“Man On Fire” launches the ritual with a simple, profound, and grandiose request: “I want the whole damn world/To come dance with me.” And the pop ambiance, people’s message, and energizing-mesmerizing quality of the band’s live shows actually make that possible.

“That’s What’s Up” reminds us that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are still what’s up. But it also reassures us that “Home,”Alex’s epic duet with Jade Castrinos on the first album, was by no means a fluke. These two can sing to each other in ways that feel more than real. They sing: “Love is our shelter/Love is our cause/Love goes on forever/Yeah love will lead us all/Love, it is our honour/Love, it is our all/Love goes on forever/Yeah love it is our home.”

Love is definitely what’s up. It always has been, and let’s hope it always will be.

“I Don’t Wanna Pray” is a toe-tapping, hand-clapping, old-school-bus-quality singalong that takes me back to summers at camp and the sweet smell of mountains mingled with the strange smell of school-bus seat. Alex brings a message – not against prayer per se – but against the separation between prayer and everyday life. It’s a truly holy hope that we’ll all transcend being the “pray-er” to be prayer itself.

Swooning high on the 60s-70s orchestral vibe, “Dear Believer” pulls us back to paradise, teaches that “reaching for heaven is what I am on earth to do.” Then “Mayla” mingles “The Mighty Quinn” with “Come Thou Font” like a classic radio or church piece, coming forth with more magical mystery tours for the heart and mind in such short time!

The sweet summer rain reigns with “All Wash Out,” a soft but strong symphonic crescendo to the whole affair. It’s all forgiveness and sweet healing and freedom from our chains.

If this all sounds far too SoCal Jesus Freak as mere marketing move, it doesn’t help that front(sha)man Alex fits the hippie messianic look to a tee. But Alex is not the second coming, his band is just coming on tour to a festival or theater near you. In a world where love is sometimes in short supply, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros amp love loudest and into the farthest dimensions. The music seems more than sincere to me, and listening to it forms a sincerely happy and habit-forming experience.

– Andrew William Smith, Editor

Here was released on 5.29.2012 by Community Music. Visit

Bono Denies Billionaire Status; Talks About Ending Hunger

May 21, 2012

U2′s Bono claims he felt rich when he was 20 and Ali was paying his bills. In this interview from the newswires, he downplays Facebook chatter and chats about ending hunger. 
ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST:  Here at the Global Food Summit, President Obama has issued a call to action for world leaders to attack poverty in Africa by expanding agriculture.  The immediate goal is to lift 15 million people out of poverty over the next decade.  Participating in this big launch for the G-8 Summit, some big players.  Singer/songwriter, co-founder of the One Campaign, Bono.
                You’ve spoken here to the summit.
                What is the mission and the cause and — and why is it so urgent?
                BONO:  Well, the mission is, I guess, obvious, to…
                MITCHELL:  Right.
                BONO:  – you know, no one wants to see those extended bellies.  No one wants to see children — emaciated children.  Hunger is a ridiculous thing.  And we know what to do in order to fix it.  There’s, you know, these whole new approaches to agriculture to increase productivity, etc.  Etc.
                But what’s key about today’s announcement is that the president of the United States is supporting African ideas on how to fix their problem.  There are country-owned, country-devised plans in 30 African countries.  And that’s what it will take to get to that 50 million people taken out of — out of hunger over the next decade.
                So it’s — that’s what’s different.  It’s partnership, it’s not the old paternalism.  These are sort of horizontal relationships, not vertical ones.
                MITCHELL:  And these countries have spent the last couple of years, 30 countries, submitting their plans.  And now this is the time for action, for business leaders, for others, to — to join in and invest.
                You wrote in “Time” magazine this week that Africa is so rich in resources, that this is really the — the continent which can be like the American continent was in the last century.
Tell us what…
                BONO:  Yes, it’s…
                MITCHELL:  – the potential there.
                BONO:  – we’ve — we’ve got to, you know, we’ve just got to reboot our thinking on the continent.  Africa is — this — the 21st century, people say it’s about China.  Ask the Chinese.  They’re all over Africa.
                MITCHELL:  Exactly.
                BONO:  Africa, by 2050, will double the population of China.  So you’ve got this — there — there will be more young people on the continent of Africa than there are Chinese in 2050.  I mean it is just stunning.  They’re rich.  They’ve got all these minerals on the ground.  And the people are saying to us, the African people, they don’t want aid as an ongoing basis.  They need it now to help them get to a place of independence.
                But they’re future consumers for the United States.  The president is talking business.  This is good.  It — it’s just — it’s a whole new kind of development paradigm, I think, today.  It’s — the old sort of donor-recipient relationship, it’s over.
                MITCHELL:  And I mean the Chinese, as you point out, they get it.  They’re investing everywhere in Africa.  These businesses want to invest.
                What do we do about the — the fact that there has been so much widespread corruption and how can that be tackled?
                The World Bank has tried to tackle it.
                BONO:  Absolutely.
                MITCHELL:  There are some demands here up front.
                BONO:  Exactly right.  Corruption is killing more kids than any dis — killer — of the killer diseases, AIDS or malaria.
                So if you look at food as a resource that comes out of the ground, the same way, if you look at oil, gas, the great mineral wealth of the continent of Africa, what can you do to make sure that the wealth that’s in the ground, under the feet of the people who live there, gets into the hands of the people who live there?
                Well, there’s one way, transparency, daylight, which is to say, when private contracts are put out — given to a — to explore for oil or for gas, that the people know how much was paid for that contract.
                So in this, in this — this Congress is a bill in the finance reform bill, the huge big Dodd-Frank bill, there’s a Cardin-Lugar Amendment what — which actually makes it law that any company published on the United States Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, has to publish what it pays for those mining rights.
                This is huge.  This is bigger than anything you can imagine.
                Who’s telling us that?
                Africans are telling us that.  This is what they’re saying.  They’re saying just bring some daylight, bring some transparency and we won’t be as dependent on you.
                MITCHELL:  And, you know, this is such a novel idea, the Europeans, some of them, are pushing back against this, saying whoa, you know, we don’t have these same rules, we don’t want these rules for our companies.
                But this would really tell the people in Africa exactly what money is being transferred and what — what their resources are going for.
                BONO:  That’s it.  So then they can ask — they can hold their own governments to account.
                Now, the British are — are looking at this.  There’s some discussion about whether it should be project by project or country by country.  It has to be project by project, I think.  We’re meeting with David Cameron later.  I — I’m — I am hopeful to — to convince him and to do that.
The French are there on this.  I spoke with the Germans, with Chancellor Merkel’s people, not with her yet.  But I have before on this subject.  And she is leaning in — in this direction.  That’s huge.  The German leadership will be great.
                I’ve actually spoken to 12 of the G-20 heads of state on this matter.  So Brazil is — is looking to lead in this.  And Australia is.
                And this is the way of the future.  Daylight is the way of the future.  The direction of information technology, guess what, it’s information.  People want information about the big decisions that affect their lives.
                MITCHELL:  Now, speaking of information technology, you have been so innovative.  You’ve been on the — the cutting edge of this.  Back in 2009, I think, you were first investing in Facebook.  It’s gone public.  You are reportedly going to con — you know, conceivably have this huge payout.
                Tell me about Facebook, what you see in it, what the business model is and what you think it’s going to accrue to your own investment.
                BONO:  Well, contrary to reports, in bus — I am not a — this boy is not a billionaire.  And — or going to be richer than any Beatle.  And not just in the sense of money, by the way.  The Beatles are untouchable.  That’s just a joke.
                MITCHELL:  I — I get it.
                BONO:  We — you know, in Elevation, we invest other people’s money — endowments, pension funds.  We do get paid and — and that is a — a good thing.  We will get, you know, I’m blessed.
                But, you know, I felt rich when I was 20 years old and my wife was — was paying my bills, you know, just being in a band.  I’ve always felt like this, I mean being — being so blessed.
                I got interested in technology because I’m an artist.  I’m interested in the forces that shape the world, you know, politics, religion, the stuff we’ve been talking about today.
Technology is huge.  I wanted to learn about it.
                And people say it’s, oh, you’re a musician, what are you doing on this?
                But I think it’s odd that — that artists are not more interested in the world around them.  The zeitgeist, I’m always chasing that.
                MITCHELL:  What do you see in Facebook?
                What is it about Facebook that you think, to those who say, well, what is the business model here, what do you think is the future of Facebook?
                BONO:  Well, they’re — they’re an amazing team.  They’re a brilliant team.  And they really care about this stuff.  And — and, you know, it’s — it’s a technology that brings people together, people who are traveling a lot, to keep in touch with their families, with their friends.
                And — and you see it, the role it’s played in — in — in North Africa, in the — in the so-called Arab Spring.
                So it’s a whole — it’s — it’s the village square.  But it was the leadership of it that got me excited to going back.
                And — but there’s other companies out there.  Yelp I invested in, Drop Box.  There’s — there’s just a — there’s just — there’s a lot of excitement in America.  This is — in this area.
                MITCHELL:  What do you say to people, Wall Street and others, who say there is no real business model here, that people might go to Google and, you know, really look at the ads, but not on Facebook, that social networking is a different kind of — of zeitgeist and that you don’t really want advertising?
                BONO:  That’s an intelligent criticism.  I’m not even going to try to answer it.  I’ll let Facebook do that.
                You know, I’m, in a ways, the — the thing that I bring to elevation is I’m curious about people.  You know, I asked Warren Buffet what was the most important thing in investing.  He said judgment of character.
And — and there’s some pattern recognition and some sensing of what the future might look like. But I think — I think Facebook has gone — is only beginning.  That’s my own view.
Transcript from:

The Light and Love of Snow Patrol Live

May 20, 2012

For much of this century, Snow Patrol have provided gifts of a guilty pleasure, ears riding on the arc of prescient guitars and lyrics lifting us into heart-space to sing along to passionate love poems. Critics have noted the band’s ballads compatibility with wedding dances and romantic-comedy soundtracks, so much that they’ve suggested that the film and television producers keep the lads in business. Since seeing them open for U2’s 360 Tour and now again twice (selling-out smaller venues in support of their latest studio release), I’m moved and encouraged how well their gems generate a great live concert experience.

I remember discovering Patrol’s first hit “Run” when the band joined the Live 8 efforts in 2005. Something struck me about this group’s epic sound and honest grace, and I have gobbled each record’s accessible appetizers ever since, so capable are these guys to tempt and satisfy my audio appetite. These are emotional pop-rock anthems that pop in the mouth like candy, that rock the belly and the bones with the balm of perpetual youth, like long rides in the car at high speeds, like an ocean wind that pushes back your hair when the tide comes in. Hearing “Run”  again early in the live set, it still gets me like a force of nature about the nature of fate, with the lyric “as if you had a choice” churning and burning my soul to seize the day.

At the Nashville show in the historic comfort of the Ryman Auditorium, we sat near a family who’d brought their rambunctious-but-tired pre-teen son. Before the show, after he inadvertently kicked me while feigning a nap on the Ryman pews, I whispered disparagingly to my date, “I guess a babysitter is more expensive than a concert ticket these days.” But later in the show I swallowed my words as our younger enthusiast was on his feet and fully immersed in the show, recognizing every song and repeating every lyric. Snow Patrol’s multigenerational reach touches this middle-aged-fanboy-for-life with similar gravitas.

Folks who fill the first few rows at a Snow show beware: both in Nashville and again in Austin at the legendary Stubb’s (the former a seated show, the latter general admission), front-person Gary Lightbody confidently chided people who looked like they may not be having a good time. Calling it his “tough love” approach, the lead singer teased his fans, making smiles mandatory. For us engulfed in an affirmative dance of appreciation, the grins already bent our faces in an automatic response to the gorgeous sounds and sumptuous light show.

Lightbody beckons us with the light, leaves melodies on our bodies and brains to linger for hours. Their latest, Fallen Empires feels like an album required by 2012 yet mired in the irony that it sounds like it could have been released in the 1980s, a compilation of swirling chants and thundering hymns to lay love and hope at the feet of the apocalypse. These tracks treat our aural ailments, lulling listeners with a life force that need not apologize for how it might energize. Snow Patrol’s musical medicine makes a somehow soothing ointment for the oddness of the age.

I’ve noticed critics confuse the band’s sometimes melancholy moodiness with a kind of disembodied dreary detachment. Despite the sadness of certain songs, though, the impulse to joy jolts on. With the dueling dual percussionists propelling us towards the fire, “We are the light” is the sizzling refrain of the recent album’s title track, sung with such power, with Gary’s arms stretched cruciform, calling forth spirits and being for spirit. Contrast this with the pleading prayer that covers “Make This Go On Forever” in aching pathos: “Please just save me from this darkness.” In all cases, Snow Patrol sing about human romance for the service of humanity, admitting fault and enduring failure but finally embracing love fully.

The shadows of Coldplay and U2 inevitably cast endless comparisons around this band’s sound and reputation, but it’s certain in their soaring sincerity that we need not deny or apply the striking resemblance for the band to get us at the gut level. I still call them a guilty pleasure because I find something intrinsically cheesy about the entire package; for some reason, they remind me of why I still like to listen to 70s and 80s pop rock radio stalwarts.

Whether eyes are open or shut as if in love, whether fans are singing along or waving hands as if in church, whether the sound is filling a room or floating to heaven at an open-air gig, Snow Patrol are a sonic powerhouse for hopeless romantics and unpretentious aficionados. We check our indie-artsy game at the door and get into the dripping goodness of the songs. “Chasing Cars” compels lovers and spouses and best-friends to “forget the world” and see “a garden that’s bursting into life.” Let’s waste time listening to Snow Patrol, digging the grace that still gets us every time. —Andrew William Smith, Editor

As of this writing, Snow Patrol are concluding a United States tour, with a summer of European gigs still awaiting. Thanks to Selena Mullinax for the pictures from the Austin show.

Keane Finds Hope On Strangeland

May 16, 2012

On its latest release, British rock band Keane recalls Hopes and Fears, the album that made folks fall on the floor from its beauty.

The first track on Keane’s fourth studio album Strangeland is the upbeat “You Are Young,” so full of energy and joy. Next, “Silenced By the Night” kicks the classic Keane piano riff and those soaring vocals Tom Chapin does so well.  Top notch tune “Disconnected” follows. The verse is perfect and it busts right into the chorus just right with great energy. I just love the way Tom sings “There’s an invisible wall between us now” that one last time at the end.

Coming up in the fourth place on the record is “Watch How You Go”. This song is a nice and light little ballad, something Keane pull off really well. Lyrically speaking, this song to me is about saying goodbye but also wishing the best for a good friend and just asking them to watch how they go about doing things and letting them know what they mean to them. Very beautiful song and this song is the kind of Keane song I fell for in the first place.

The soaring “Sovereign Light Café” first showed up on Keane’s last tour and was inspired by a café of the same name of the song near where Keane recorded this album. Perhaps one of the faster, more energetic tracks on the album is “On the Road,” with Tom shouting on this one.  “The Starting Line” is another one of those slow-paced balladish songs with synthesizer that sort of “swirls” throughout, and the magnificent chorus gives hope. I’ve found that hope, even in the toughest times, seems to be a theme throughout this album, lyrically speaking. This song would definitely fit in some sort of movie. I can just see it in my head.

“Black Rain” is so soft, ambient, and floating—where Tom’s voice just floats nicely on top of the ambiance during the chorus. With “Neon River,” Tim Rice-Oxley makes use of a delay at the intro of this song that reminds me of U2. “Day Will Come” pumps me up and makes me want to drive fast, a great get-on-your-feet and jump-around-and-scream track.

“In Your Own Time” contains a memorable chorus that could easily get stuck in your head: “In your own time/ There’s no map to guide our way/ So I say nothing, you say nothing/ In your own way/ Thought I could help you find your place/ But I’m as lost as you are lost these days.” “Sea Fog” closes out Strangeland. It actually sounds like the title suggests. I can see myself sitting out at a sea, specifically somewhere in Europe, listening to this song where it’s all foggy and boats are floating along. It’s a very beautifully sad tune.

Strangeland shares messages of hope but with moments of sad. But even the most melancholy- filled lyrics sound cheerful behind some of Keane’s happiest sounding music. Strangeland seems to be a slight call-back to the early days of Keane, and it’s really a quite daring move. You get more of the same, which in this case isn’t a bad thing! I don’t know if Tom has ever sounded better.  —Vincent Magnarella

Musical Messengers of Love Make Memphis Marvelous

May 11, 2012

Photos © by Bob Bayne/Memphis in May, taken from

Beale Street Music Festival’s reputation preceded itself with the nickname “Memphis in Mud.” Given the rainy tradition, most fans embraced the sunny and unseasonably steamy weather of the 2012 installment. Given the utter marvelous ubiquity of music festivals these days, what makes Memphis special? The lovely lineup is what brought this Bonnaroo regular across the state for the weekend; and how this festival fulfills the Memphis musical legacy already inhabiting the banks of the Mississippi River kept us enchanted for three delightful days.

Needtobreathe followed by Florence and the Machine opened the weekend. The angelic soaring sonic blessing brought by Florence Welch took me towards that festival in the mind and heart. Full moon rising, mild Mississippi breezes caressing the dancers on the lawn—this is a perfect night, recovering from an unseemly hot day.

My Morning Jacket, though, are the band that motivate me more than most to take long rock n roll road trips. After opening with “Circuital,” the setlist dipped into B-sides and back catalog. Whatever the song choices, Yim Yames could sing to me on any Friday night. The soaring greatness of Carl’s guitar part and the sheer emotions of Yim’s vocals on “Gideon” never fail to destroy me.

The outta this world “Outta My System” is one of my clean & sober theme songs (just celebrated three years!), so it’s always great to hear that in a set. On “Wordless Chorus” and “Touch Me,” Yim’s freaky falsetto yummy yelps give me chills no matter how warm it is. An always brain-and-body-bending “Off the Record” riffs into our reggae-soaked “Phone Went West,” soulfully slinked to perfection. Quite simply, My Morning Jacket have become (or perhaps they always were) a quintessential classic rock band in the deeper sense that teenage boys dream about. Yim Yames is a warm-hearted light-worker, sending furry beams of fuzzy love across galaxies of realities in need of repair and revival. I am honored to have traveled to the sonic sanctuary that he and his mates have created on so many occasions.

As much as Friday fulfilled, Saturday sanctified, first with the rusty interstate rambles of Son Volt, with Jay Farrar fierce as poet-troubadour roots-rock frontman, a John Fogerty-meets-Jack Kerouac lyrics-and-guitar prophet. But it was later Saturday when we left the rock themes for a one-of-a-kind soul revival. The Reverend Green brought a band, his daughters as backup singers, dozens of roses to decorate the crowd with love. Green graced us with a medley of “Amazing Grace/Nearer My God” that slipped so perfectly into “Let’s Stay Together.” Late in the show, he became a human jukebox, power-packing snippets of several super-hits into just a few minutes. Broadcasting brightly on the frequency of love, Green’s soul sensuality and sanctified reality combine seamlessly and sacredly – as it should be. More than any festival I’ve been to since leaving downtown Detroit, the racial diversity in the crowd celebrated a sticker I saw on Beale Street: “Not Black, Not White, Just Blues.” The amazing Anthony Hamilton held the soul vibe high into the wee hours.

Sunday’s sets sealed the weekend in more sweat and sweetness. Under the blazing heat, Chris Robinson (of Black Crowes fame) kicked back for a hot and heavy hour of the hippie blues. Then there’s something that makes a festival a festival. Michael Franti and Spearhead wrapped all of Memphis in a mighty group hug of good vibes. Sticking more to recent tracks mostly from The Sound of Sunshine, Franti feels mellower with his message tilted from justice-movement politics towards straight shots of hope-and-unity. When you’re dancing at a festival, such genuine human warmth serves the politics of the good regardless. Some fans have bemoaned the softening of Franti’s sharper edges, but I welcome this latest evolution and look forward towards his next incarnation as well.

We wrapped up the musical quilt of our weekend with quieter duets of The Civil Wars. What Joy Williams and John Paul White have created evokes emotional reckonings and rustic moods, adding yet more to the alt-folk-roots revival that just keeps blossoming with new beauty. They serenaded our after dinner iced-tea hour and sent us walking towards the car with appropriate contentment to carry back to the middle of our fine musical state of Tennessee. —Andrew William Smith, Editor


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