Most famous as his alter ego in the L.A. hippie clan Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, Alexander Ebert changes it up by letting listeners in on his childish subconscious. This vulnerability is invigorated throughout the ten truthful tracks of Alexander. And the cover art of Ebert as a tot — in his striped onesie and floppy sunhat — only further enhances this enchanting musical persona.
The bearded artist taught himself to play the violin sitting in his living room and has said that his solo album is “about trying to be the physical representation of (his) spirit, whatever the hell that is, whatever the heaven that is. It’s about what it means to wake up and be really alive and embrace the three dimensional world.”
“Let’s Win” is an auditory rainbow from the ’70s that layers the whimsical colors of the drumbeats, panting, altered vocals and organ — showing that Ebert may be embracing more than just three dimensions.
Songs like “Awake My Body” allow Ebert to become a respected solo artist, separate from his previous work. He does not shy away from any of his senses — “My body, my toes, my heart, my skin, my nose,” he sings. He is determined — when a low point of exhaustion is reached — to awaken all of his cells and manifest his soul in the tapping, whistling and deliverance of sound to the world outside of himself.
A true representative of Alexander is the pre-released song “Truth,” complete with lyrics of spirituality and naked expression — “Tilt my chin back, slit my throat / Take a bath in my blood, get to know me / All out of my secrets / All my enemies are turning into my teachers.” He taps into the Tibetan Buddhist idea of loving one’s enemy for the patience they teach.
These palpable lyrics continue to evolve throughout the track (“You’re darkness is shining, my darkness is shining”), elevating “Truth” to a level of meditation. Not only does this song have the quiet fire of focus, but it also bangs up against Ebert’s old interest in rap from the darker days of his ill-fated hip-hop career with the group Ima Robot.
The only real lackluster endeavor is the concluding track, “Let’s Make a Deal to Not Make a Deal.” The sounds of trotting horses and “la-de-de-da” is not up to par with the rest of Alexander.
But ignoring the ultimate track, Ebert manages to further the positive charge with slower tracks, “Old Friend” and Glimpses.” He croons puzzling but pleasurable lyrics above Eastern-inspired instrumentation. In “Glimpses,” Ebert is a soul-wrenching, scratchy-voiced Bob Dylan crying to his mama about the bullshit of the world. “Old Friend” rises with harmonica and the words: “My heart is confetti.”
Also reminiscent of Dylan, but with a more sanguine sound, are the satisfying tracks “Bad Bad Love” and “In The Twilight.” Both scream vintage summertime.
Echoing his live performances, Alexander starts out “A Million Years” in an experimental manner. As he repeatedly exhales and pants, it’s easy to imagine him dancing low to the ground in the recording studio, shaking his hands to his own breath, messy bun on top of his head.
The timing of Alexander is much appreciated as it successfully brings Ebert down to earth after the Magnetic Zeros commoditized (in Ford Fiesta and NFL commercials) the indie-folk feat of an album, Up From Below. Is this money-grab necessary to support their 11-person band traveling the world? Hopefully they don’t ditch the rattling hippie minivan and invest in a limo.
It’s likely that Ebert won’t ever let it get that far.