Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros celebrate love, life and history with the release today of their third album. The self-titled album features 12 songs, and none may be better than “Life is Hard,” which one writer calls an “enormous rainbow.”
The song came to life during the middle of the mixing process — a time when Ebert says, “We’re not supposed to be writing from scratch.”
Ebert was messing around on a grand piano one day when the beat came to him.”I started wailing on the piano and chunking the chords on the piano in quarter notes. It was ¾, and then I started singing and almost rapping over it! Just kinda shouting over these chords. I remember Lenny, our engineer, shouting from the control room, “That’s cool!”
The song would eventually evolve into a song based on a poem Ebert had found years ago, but had lost.
“I’d written it for two people who had ‘moved on’ or ‘passed on,’ ” Ebert told American Songwriter magazine. “They weren’t in their physical bodies anymore. I’d written not so much a poem as a flurry of words about life being hard. I was writing it with a defiant, celebratory tone — life is hard, but that’s the celebration and the cause for the dance and the smile, and the example of your courage to even live. Because everything is and has been heartbreaking for me ever since I discovered I was going to die, when I was about five years old. I went to the computer and found this poem that I’d just recently found again, and I brought it back to the piano. There were the lyrics. I didn’t change much. Just shouting the lyrics over the piano thing just worked. It was amazing, particularly fort his poem to be brought to life, especially in this quick — and yet really elongated manner — where I’d actually lost the poem for awhile.”
Read more from American Songwriter.
Mykel Vernon-Sembach, of Flagstaff Live, said the song is a bit of “shell shock compared to the album’s previous tracks in a beautiful, gospel choir kind of way.”
“It features the well-known lo-fi reverb of their previous folksy persona in a sorrowful, bittersweet blues song about the less-than-ideal moments of living,” Vernon-Sembach writes in his review. “While this track is outstanding compared to any of their previous work, the most inspiring aspect is (Jade) Castrino’s unbelievably wholesome voice. She steals the show from Ebert with her soulful, smoky lines that play right along with Aaron Arntz’s lounge-lizard piano style. It’s only natural that their best track would be hidden halfway through the album, just as ‘Home’ was hidden in Up From Below.”