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Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros: Kindness And Clamor

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' appeal defies documentation, let alone description. On paper, the group doesn't sound instantly appealing — a hippie version of Arcade Fire with 10 members and a dreadlocked, frequently shirtless frontman? — but it's not much easier to capture its appeal on a silver disc or a digital file.

See the band live, though, and it's another story: The group is absolutely beloved in the L.A. press right now, which has everything to do with the fact that L.A. is where the group has been playing concerts. A madly joyous clatter, the Magnetic Zeros' sound radiates the feverish intensity of a revival show, but with a loving relationship at its center: Singers Edward Sharpe (a.k.a. Alex Ebert) and Jade Castrinos sing to each other with the winning warmth of Johnny and June Carter Cash, and that counts for a lot.

The band's short recording career — its full-length debut, Up From Below, just came out — has been spottier, albeit aided by a series of adventurous videos. Confined to a studio, Sharpe and company can't help but seem flattened out by comparison, yet "Home" still does a lovely job of conveying the whimsical affection at the group's core.

Once listeners get past the occasional bit of cornpone, a giant dose of good-heartedness kicks in: The couplet "Alabama, Arkansas / I do love my ma and pa" may be a groaner, until Castrinos adds, "Not the way that I do love you." As the song grows more clamorous and kind, it gets catchier, too, building to a freewheeling celebration rooted in unmistakable affection. It sounds terrific here, but when it's blown out in 360-degree live performance, "Home" is enough to make even the tiniest heart grow three sizes.

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This story originally ran on July 10, 2009.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)