By Hannah Simon | January 14th, 2011
Let’s pretend that Alex Ebert (of Edward Sharpe fame) decided to make an album combining elements of folk with childlike whimsy, using hand clapping, clarinet blowing, and whistling to create some awesome toe-tappin’ jams. Oh, wait. We don’t have to pretend. That album is real, and it’s coming out on March 1.
Alexander is ten tracks of pure bliss, juggling themes of love, truth, and peace. Throughout the album, Ebert draws influences from his artsy, folk-rock “family” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but he also plays with different genres. Sometimes, I swear I hear a 60s Bob Dylan-esque acoustic shining through (especially on “Awake My Body” and “Bad Bad Love”); at other times, Ebert masterfully combines the spoken word elements of hip hop with folk (the song “Truth” is genius). A recent press release stated:
“…some of the inspirations for the ‘mouth sounds’ that you can hear throughout the record were from all-time-favorites of his like the 1970 chart-topping ditty “In The Summertime” by British band Mungo Jerry. He also notes that children’s clapping games like Patty Cake and infectious and optimistic Disney tunes like “Zip A Dee Do Da” served as loose inspirations for him.
Alex Ebert has certainly come a long way since his days with Ima Robot. I was never really part of the cult-like fanfare surrounding Edward Sharpe, and have to admit that I definitely underestimated Ebert’s talent. Did I mention that he does all the vocals and plays all the instruments himself on Alexander? He took his guitar, a Lowery organ, a clarinet, and a violin, not to mention some solid whistling skills (Andrew Bird, watch out!), and holed up in his bedroom to record the album during breaks from the Edward Sharpe tour. Surprisingly, it’s the first time he’s ever worked on a solo project.
Album opener “Let’s Win!” is upbeat and catchy; it’s a melting pot of sounds that remind me of I’m From Barcelona, The Boy Least Likely To, and Devendra Banhart (does anyone else think Ebert kind of looks like Banhart?). There are a few other jingle-jangle tunes on the album (including the seriously cute love song “Million Years”), but Ebert also throws a few ballads in there for good measure.
I honestly can’t say enough good things about this album. It’s been on constant repeat since I got an advance copy to review, and is one of the first releases I’ve gotten this excited about since Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs.
Ebert is playing some shows in Los Angeles and at SXSW before returning to the studio to complete work on the second LP from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, which will be released later this year. Hippie folk gods need to keep busy, I suppose.