Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ debut album Up from Below and follow-ups Here and their self-titled third album were characterized by raucous folk, fit for the best of music festivals. The group, led by Alex Ebert, is unabashedly rambunctious, and that’s what their fans love and have come to expect from them. It is for that reason that the more subdued PersonA will undoubtedly come as a surprise to listeners, perhaps even a disappointment to those expecting more of the same. The first thing to note about PersonA is that the name Edward Sharpe is crossed out on the album cover. Sharpe, to begin with, was this messianic figure Ebert dreamed up, and that persona was a natural folk supergroup leader. But, if Ebert is sloughing off that persona to more fully embrace the Magnetic Zeros as a collective, where does that leave the music? In truth, not vastly changed. There is a song that bears the lyrics “You got to get uncomfortable,” although the message calls for openness rather than preempts listener disappointment. Ultimately, the sloughing off of artifice has produced an album of softer music straight from Ebert’s soul. There are a handful of solemn tracks here that favor minimal instrumentation and allow Ebert to explore his lower register. “Somewhere” consists of a cheerily melancholy plucked guitar, hand-clapping and accents of bright, childlike keys. The guitar and melody encourage thoughts of “Here Comes the Sun.” Elsewhere, “Lullaby” is an aptly titled piano lullaby with dreamy backing synths under Ebert’s most somber vocal turn to date. Even “Wake Up the Sun,” clocking in at just under seven minutes, is a self-reflective blend of a jive-y piano refrain, bustling percussion and strummed guitar. And while it may end in a climax of chanting vocalists, horns and breakdowns, the lyrics “All that you wanted was all that you found in your heart” are still delivered with a twinge of sadness, despite the revelation. Singing along at the top of your lungs is less feasible with PersonA but there are still callbacks to the raucous Edward Sharpe days. In addition to “Wake Up the Sun,” there is “Free Stuff,” with its sunny finger picking, drums like boots on hardwood and plenty of hey’s and ya’s. Lead single “No Love Like Yours” is even more upbeat. Its blend of airy ’60s folk – yes, there are organs and bongos – would have fit in perfectly on Up from Below. Here, it serves as a mood booster mid-album. The next best moment on PersonA is finale track “The Ballad of Yaya,” a classically ES&MZ jangly acoustic number. For all its novelty in the Edward Sharpe oeuvre, PersonA appropriately ends with a chorus of backing vocalists and a bevy of horns. This is by no means the album that most would expect from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, but it’s clear that since the departure of Jade Castrinos, Ebert and the band have undergone changes. From faintly jazzy, thoroughly psychedelic folk opener “Hot Coals” and its heady uptempo to the trumpets and chorus that end “The Ballad of Yaya,” PersonA presents a newly emboldened group. And it only makes sense that this eccentric album marks the first to be written by the entire group collectively. Given the irresistible conclusion to be drawn from “Free Stuff” lyrics “Everybody taking my Hey!/ Everybody stealing my Ho!” one can’t blame the band for elaborating on their oft-imitated folk sound. The fact that they’ve added depth to their lyrics and arrangements at the same time is just added bonus and further reason to see what they turn out next.