“Have faith in yourself with Alex Ebert’s empowering and inspirational musical ballads.”


No matter the mind, heart, soul or spirit as is held by anyone in this world, everyone has faced some semblance of darkness in their lives. Pain affects all of us in every measure; it’s for that reason, we strive for the solutions that act to ease our suffering. Or, out of indignation and pride, we romantically push ourselves to conquer our fears and adversaries. The truth is, every day is trying to trick us into doing battle. 


With this as the conflicting reality which we’re all forced to face, the solutions we find are varied, some being sought by the far and few, others by the masses. The righteous respect towards a newfound religion contrasts with the meandering troubles of a drug-addled vagabond. I myself found faith in my strength through something classically simple, music. 


Our parents may have laid their hearts out for the soft sounds of Simon and Garfunkel, or maybe the likes of Aerosmith or even something closer to Marilyn Manson. Music is, in of itself, the timeless solution to all sorts of shadowy threats to ourselves; music is immortal, the things that our parents listened to being passed onto us and so on. I really held tightly to the vinyl rock artists of the 70’s through my hard times. Something different, however, has recently ended up catching my interest. 


By all means I’m a melophile, I love to pick and choose the greatest tunes from every genre. It’s the contemporary, melodic beats from Californian artist Alex Ebert, however, that inspire me to be the greatest I can be; his work pushes me to fight my darkness, I find then that it’s plausible it can do the same for you. 


Alexander Michael Tahquitz Ebert, simply known as Alex Ebert, is a Los Angeles born music artist and general composer born in 1978. While I’d never personally give a Wikipedia-esque description of any artist’s life, I’d definitely recommend checking out some details on Ebert; he grew up cultured by his family, the music he was immersed in as a child as well as various other factors would end up leading him to pursuing his career in music and film alike. 


Some of these factors included, however, some rough dealings with drugs and a bad crowd, both things that would impact Ebert for life, altering him as a person and his career alike. These negative aspects of his life, or his personal demons, are bonded tightly with Ebert’s music, particularly his individual productions (which I will get to in time). 


Ebert fumbled about with some bands before leading the band Ima Robot in ‘97-’98; the groovy and unpredictable style of the band’s music brought them success in the early to mid 2000’s, though they’ve been pretty much inactive since 2010 (the band is still together, however.) Eberts work with Ima Robot gave him a baseline from which he could further his career and move onto bigger projects. 


Then of course came the showstopper. 


In 2007, right at home in Los Angeles, Ebert formed Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros alongside American singer Jade Castrinos and a handful of other performers. For the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, The Magnetic Zeros were at the very top of the folk and indie rock scene. Considering the fact that Ebert headed the band, the name “Edward Sharpe” became a character of his that was usually self-described as this messianic figure. This reaction and the forming of the band, at least on Ebert’s end, was spurred out of a need to escape his drug addiction and the conflicts which faced him in the life he was leading prior to the bands conception. 


The 2009 hit “Home” rocketed the group into immediate fame, with the video sitting at nearly 90 million views on Youtube. The album which featured the song, Up From Below, hit all of the right notes with the lofty, hippy vibes. 


As far as music goes, the work of the Magnetic Zeros was something from the 60’s sent to an age of bubbly pop and rap. It was really good though, especially when considering the chemistry as was shared by Ebert and Castrinos (it’s not something that I can explain, you’ll have to check it out for yourself.) 

Ebert & Castrinos

The music, as noted, felt out of time; it was a beautiful cacophony of shaky instruments and shakier vocals. The lifespan of the Magnetic Zeros was brief yet magnificent. Catchy tunes and soft odes to the joy of youth, the shedding of guilt and pain as was depicted by their music will probably live on in the hearts of those who were there to experience it. 


Three more albums would spawn from the band, yet they’d fade in popularity with the departure of Castrinos from the group in 2014 (with nobody knowing for sure why to this day,); the 2015 release PersonA would find success on Youtube and pump some more life into the band even without Castinos’ iconic vocal performances. A ‘Rise-and-Fall’ legacy in the making, the Magnetic Zeros are still technically together to this very day with Ebert at the helm, yet it’s likely that without Castrinos only the die-hard fans will keep the band kicking until its last days. Notably, however, Ebert killed off his Edward Sharpe persona with, well, PersonA, so who knows where the group will end up. 


A friend of mine once described their music as “something to fill the silence, or drown out other sounds. It’s something you can use for light listening, or something that you can hold a lot of meaning too,” with that being directed towards the Magnetic Zeros and Ebert himself. I personally believe she captured what makes their music special; it’s all purpose. It’s great to listen to, to love to, to live to and to die to (and that’s probably what it was made for, considering how the band members are all a bunch of hippies). 


I never personally got into Ima Robot all that much, but as I noted the music is good; their Youtube channel has some deep cuts from Ebert that are mostly hidden from the public eye. The Magnetic Zeros, across all four albums, have some amazing songs as are reflected by the Youtube views, with most of their music videos having millions of views and an overwhelmingly positive general reception to each release. One of my favorites from them include the titular “Up From Below” (2009) which references the name of their debut album, Ebert’s soft vocals and the choral performances from the backing band members mix with an elegant acoustic performance that creates something truly special. 


Other songs from their discography include hits such as “Man on Fire” off of Here (2012), “Janglin”, which is also off of Up From Below, and the newer “Hot Coals”, which is off of 2016’s PersonA


Besides all of this, I did bring up earlier that Ebert has also made a name for himself in film and composing. Arguably, he’s received more official recognition from his efforts in these fields as opposed to his vocal and instrumental performances for Ima Robot or the Magnetic Zeros. 


Ebert won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score due to his scoring for the film All is Lost (2013) and would also follow up with the director to score 2014’s A Most Violent Year. Both scores were fantastic and only gave more credit to Ebert as a burgeoning musical genius in a complex period, one where his work was separated from that of the usual artists from the time and where it continues to be so even up to the current day. 


Mainly, however, I wanted to focus on Ebert’s solo career with this piece, which includes his debut and sophomore albums, Alexander (2011) and I vs I (2020) respectively (and man, ain’t that a bit of writer’s, or I suppose, singer’s block if I’ve ever seen it, almost nine years between albums is a long time in the music industry!) 

Ebert With the Magnetic Zeros

Before I go into the ins and outs of Ebert’s two solo albums, which I believe deserve their own analysis from the rest of his career as a whole, I’m actually going to get to the really good stuff first. Why not start with Ebert’s magnum opus and the song that brought the most attention to the Magnetic Zeros and Ebert’s solo career (besides “Home”,) that song being the, in this case titular, “Truth” off of his debut album. 


“Truth” (2011) found popularity due to it being in the credit sequence of an impactful episode of AMC’s legendary series, Breaking Bad (2008-2013). The episode was aired the same year the song was debuted by Ebert, so it’s indicative that someone on the B.B. team had a good taste in music. People flocked to the song on Youtube and through other means as soon as they experienced the brief glimpse of it from the episode’s ending, with the song, and Ebert’s popularity only soaring from there. 


“Truth” is probably more like an experience than it is a song. It’s the third song in the tracklist for Alexander, which is interesting because it feels like it would be a perfect fit to start the album (or to end it, for that matter,) yet it resides in the middle of the album. There’s little directly spoken about the song from Ebert himself, besides some bits about its meaning; I believe personally it wasn’t intended to be anything that special, yet as noted it became a major success among fans and a staple of Ebert’s live performances. 


I said that the song is more of an ‘experience’ for a reason; I’ve said in pieces prior that it’s really not worth explaining a song when you could just have the audience listen to it, so I’ve linked to the masterpiece at the bottom of this article for ease of access. Even with that being my standard line of thinking, I have to offer some details on Ebert’s creation solely out of respect for the artist. 


Composition wise, “Truth” features a wide variety of instruments that were all performed by Ebert himself. The inspiring, angelic choir in the background pairs well with the instrumentals present. It’s a masterwork, it’s rustic and it’s folky. It sounds a bit grainy, but that’s something that I think adds to the character of the song and the album of a whole. The song has an air of its own that doesn’t compare to anything else on the album besides the song that closes it out (which I’ll also get to,) and for that reason alone it sets itself apart from anything in Ebert’s work. 


The lyrics are what really steal the show with this one, however, as they combine this soulful hodgepodge mix of hip-hop and folk into something truly unique. The song opens up with haunting whistling, which seems to call back to the whistling that was used at the beginning of “Home” just a couple years prior (though “Home”’s whistling was more uppity in its tone.) Lyrically, Ebert explores some of the darkness that worked to consume him throughout a good portion of his life and his music career. It’s been hinted at and offhand stated a handful of times that the song was about the acceptance and struggle with combating one’s dark side, so to speak. 


Lines such as “your darkness, is shining, my darkness, is shining,” and “all my enemies are turning into my teachers,” really drive home the point; Ebert’s somber tone and unique belting while singing go along perfectly with the lyrics. 


The music video which was released around the same time seems to complement this, with Ebert dirty and disgraced, finding some sort of internal rebirth when facing the light after being shrouded in darkness. At least, that’s the best way I can describe it. As I’ve made clear time and time again, everyone is best to listen to the music and, preferably, watch the video themselves for the full experience as opposed to reading my ramblings on the topic. 


Overall, “Truth” is a bizarre, intriguing and lovely experience that really tugs at the soul-strings; it’s the Ebert song that all other Ebert songs are to be compared to. 

Ebert Kneeling in the “Truth” Music Video

I heard the song myself when my best friend Mya, who I’ve mentioned in my pieces before and who has a far superior music taste than I do myself, sent it to me a long time ago around midnight. I listened to it then with open ears and an open heart, and I still love the song; it really gets better the more you listen to it since you start picking up all of the fine details over time. This experience really got me into Ebert’s work, and then eventually the Magnetic Zeros and other similar artists. 


Regarding the rest of Alexander and I vs I, there’s still plenty to say. 


Half parts due to genuinely fair criticism and half parts due to an initial lack of critical understanding towards Ebert’s genius, Alexander only really received mixed reviews from critics after its 2011 release. Most of the criticism was directed towards Ebert’s lack of focus on the project, its overly experimental nature and the lack of any stable direction (considering how so many different stylistic blends found their way into the album.) Over time though, especially due to a boost from the increasing popularity of the Magnetic Zeros and B.B’s use of “Truth”, the album found success and is now a cult favorite (like much of what I cover in my writing). 


As you can probably guess the album follows some hard-hitting, folky, contemporary rock blends of songs into something absolutely strange yet magical. “Let’s Win” and “Let’s Make a Deal Not to Make A Deal” have a childlike tone to them, whereas “Remember our Heart” and “Awake My Body” follow the gruff rustic tone and are a little bit closer to their roots with the Magnetic Zeros. Songs like “Old Friend” and “A Million Years” are good in my opinion, though they fall short of the mysticism and imagery that is inspired by the other selections in the tracklist; I believe they probably garnered the most criticism, as they seem the most lazy and hippy-ish. 


“Glimpses” is by all means the best song on the album besides “Truth”, with its harrowing, at times screeching vocals by Ebert and the harsh subject matter, which as found in the lyrics describe moments of weakness such as suicidal intentions and, again, the finding of an internal light to combat the darkness. That’s a lot to take in-in just one run on sentence, but again I encourage you to listen to it; the song, much like “Truth” is a masterpiece that closes out the album, but doesn’t really fit with the rest of it. 


I vs I came out earlier this year and it was definitely a surprise to everyone. There was talk of a new Ebert album in the mix but as far as I understand nobody really knew what to expect from him (and how could you? It had been about 9 years since his debut album and almost four years since the last Magnetic Zeros album.) The songs “Stronger” and “Her Love” were released to the public near the end of 2019, yet the album itself wouldn’t be released in its entirety until later. 


The album features 14 songs, which in the music industry equates to a relatively massive collection. That fact alone is probably pretty fitting though, since Ebert did have a long time to write out some new hits. Considering that there are 14 in comparison to Alexander’s 10, there’s no way for me to reasonably go over all of my favorites, but I can pull out a select few goodies while describing the album as a whole. 

Ebert in His “Hand’s Up” Music Video

All fourteen songs stray away from Ebert’s career with the Magnetic Zeros and what was found on Alexander; Ebert was innovating again, and this time probably for the better. By the time of production, Ebert was involved romantically with a woman and had a child of his own, being around 40 years old. The free-spirited hippy-flow of past works are absent from the album, long buried by responsibility and a lack of interest (again, besides one exception, that being the song that closes out the album.) Rap, hip-hop and psychedelic ruminations are mixed in with a bit of high-pitch pop to create something unique as always. 


Trumpets and horns, the long saxophone solo on “Fluid” as well as a ton of electronic beats function together to form something just as magical as what came before. Instrumentally, I vs I is a treat for the ears; lyrically Ebert also improved, with some of the songs’ lyrical compositions likely being improved upon directly from the sharp switch to a rap style. 


Some songs on I vs I succeed more than others, much like Alexander, though there are fewer discrepancies in quality between each song, with all of them being enjoyable for one reason or another (at least in my honest opinion.) Much as was relevant to the songs “Truth” and “Glimpses”, however, Ebert’s carefully rhymed and constructed lyrics on the album really make it a marvel. 


Revelations and nostalgic musings are found within most of Ebert’s creations within I vs I, with some of the hardest hitting songs being “Miracle”, “Gold” and “Automatic Youth”. 


“Miracle” follows Ebert teaching various philosophical lessons to his young daughter, such as bits about people’s role in the world and the nature of death. The fast-rapping nature of some of the songs on the album might give off the impression that the lyrics are irrelevant bunk between all of these songs, with a closer/multiple listens being necessary to reveal the opposite being the case. “Gold” follows some of Ebert’s struggles with his relationship and career, while “Automatic Youth” seems to describe the story of Ebert leaving his girlfriend and daughter at the time (and then the realization of his mistake and his reuniting with his family.) Like always, that was a lot, but hopefully those simple descriptions offer enough to intrigue anyone in the music. 


The album most certainly isn’t for everyone, yet it’s got something, in one measure or another, for any listener. Those who appreciate the instrumentals can enjoy the previously mentioned instruments as they are strewn masterfully among each song. Those who appreciate the vocals and lyrics can find appreciation in the harder hitting songs. It’s earcandy. 


One last thing that I have to say on the matter is that the album does offer, from my perspective, one last recall to Ebert’s previous works and career. Of course, no artist can completely deter from their past with ever-changing future releases (not even Bowie,) but the main connection between I vs I and anything else produced by Ebert is the album’s last song, “Press Play”. 


The original title for this piece, “Press Play” is an invigorating experience that keeps the audience intrigued with lyrics and vocals that make the situation out to be as though Ebert were on the verge of tears. Backup vocals as well as moody beats support the masterwork as Ebert takes you on a journey that displays expert-quality rhymes and rapping that is years in the making. Though it has its own personality, “Press Play” is the closest thing on I vs I to anything Ebert made in the past decade, with the song making that fact known.  It’s one of me and my brother’s favorites, it’s a perfect way to close out the album with an inspiring track that conjures images of forever-sunsets, and frankly, I think it’s a hidden gem that deserves more love than it has received. 


Various artists have kept me sane throughout quarantine, but it has been I vs I in particular that I’ve found myself listening to every day; it’ll be weird at first, especially if you’re used to Ebert’s earlier compositions, but I can assure you that there’s something you’ll like about it. 


That’s the best, most simplistic history of Ebert’s career I can give while keeping it bearable for the reader. There are, however, plenty of other releases that I haven’t really explored. 


2017 offered listeners the beautiful single known as “Broken Record”, a favorite in Ebert’s community and, in my opinion, one of his best songs. The melancholy beat and sorrowful lyrics again pair alongside a saxophone and horns (which seem now to be Ebert’s calling card,) the song isn’t in the form of a rap, and is more folky while still maintaining plenty of smooth rhymes. The standalone video for the song is a trippy, but mellow joy for the eyes. The song also has one of the best endings, if not the second best ending of any Ebert song besides “Truth”, as it maintains this sound and aura that I can only describe as ‘bubbling starlight’. 

Ebert As He Appears in the “Broken Record” Music Video

Also within 2017, Ebert released “Joy Is My Armor” alongside a “visualizer video” (whatever that means,) that received relative respect amongst Ebert’s community as a strong alternative track. An interesting thing to note is that Ebert has performed with AWOLNATION (who I personally know nothing about,) and now deceased popular Swedish D.J., Avicii, in some interesting bouts of collaboration. Ebert has also made his political views known with the 2015 track “Feel the Bern”, in which he attempted to bolster support for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election (but we all know what that amounted to, plus I’m not really into politics as my limited readership would attest, thus I’ve nothing to note on the matter). 


On a final, final note regarding Ebert’s individual compositions, beyond everything that I’m missing or leaving out to spare the reader a bunch of technical slobbering over the artist’s work, Ebert did release three EPs in 2018 under the name In Support of 5AME Dude (volumes I, II, and III respectively.) They’re all very interesting but not really my cup of tea, I say try them out if you’re genuinely curious. 


Alex Ebert transitioned through so many phases in his career, going from the happy-go-lucky calls to arms and spiritual proclamations during the early era of the Magnetic Zeros, to the carefully constructed ballads found within I vs I. This is something that’s obvious when considering the artists that Ebert drew inspiration from (being too many to include, but obviously including David Bowie as previously referenced.) All we have to do now is wait another decade or so to see what he puts out next. 


That was so much to go through, and I really only scratched the surface. I’ve never been an interview-y, quote-piece-y kind of writer, and I never will be. So, as of right now, this is probably the best I can do while still leaving some things up to the reader’s imagination. Hopefully I’ve influenced some of you to go check out some of Ebert’s music, beginning with “Truth”, of course. 


Yet of course I couldn’t bear to end there, as is customary, there’s still a bigger picture to all of this that I only barely dove into at the beginning of this look into Ebert’s extensive double-decade long career. 


Ebert tried to escape the darkness that surrounded both his childhood and later life, yet after finding that he couldn’t escape it, he tried to fight it off. Where many would stop there, as the majority of us do every day, Ebert decided to go further and accept his darkness, his fears and his demons all while enduring the pressures of his life-long career as a musician. This is a path that was often pursued by the artists of the past; Ebert’s contemporary (who I’ve also written about,) Chan Marshall had to deal with similar issues that directly shaped her and her career. It’s the success of both figures in their chosen path that sets them apart from others of a similar ilk. Ebert himself, having more publicly recorded his acceptance of his nature, definitely comes off as something truly unique for all that he is, considering how hard it is to do so without letting one’s troubles consume them. 


I’ve always encouraged everyone, my close friends, my readership and otherwise to try to be a hero in a dangerous and confusing world. With so many metaphorical shadows in life constantly trying to prey on our hearts, it’s a struggle that we must fight against until the day we die. Though, it’s something that’s definitely manageable, as long as you have the internalized strength. 


Ebert reaches his climax in the song “Truth” by resonating the line: “Have faith in ourselves,” which perfectly represents everything that I could ever offer both my audience and all of the people directly in my life. 


Whenever I see anybody in trouble, or doubting themselves, I always repeat the line as it’s found in an alternate stanza: “Have faith in yourself,” and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Accepting what we are, but more importantly what we can do, is what makes up all of the principles that culminate in the idea that is “Truth”. 


That internalized strength can make us the heroes we all deserve to be, the artists we dream of becoming, and then some. Everyday tests us on what we are, and every day we push on, we’re bound to succeed with flying colours. 


The truth is that I never shook my shadow, but neither did any of us, we only found faith in ourselves, and that was that. 


Well, that’s the end of the piece, and I’m pretty excited to say that this might be the longest non quote-based piece ever to be uploaded onto The Ridge Review. I hope that it was a quality experience and insightful for anyone reading, as even though it was a lengthy endeavor I put a lot of love into it due to it being my final piece for the year. 


I’d never find the inspiration to write on these matters, and to try to push my audience towards greatness if it weren’t for the positive responses and support I as well as the Ridge Review as a whole have been receiving in recent months. For that, I believe we are eternally grateful and I hope personally that our newspaper can expand further and further in the future to be something enjoyed and, to any measure, operated by the entire school. 


The harsh situation that has struck society has warranted the further expression of these themes and values, and frankly, even though I haven’t made many pieces or comments on the current state of affairs I am proud to see just how well Ridge as a community has held up against some of the darkest days in recent years. 


I wish everyone a good summer, filled with those joyous experiences that fill your heart with both glee and that hope for the golden light of the future ahead. 


With love and respect, to all those shining stars, – Your Designated Newsbro 🙂 


Featured photo by curtsy of Angy.


Alexander Michael Tahquitz Ebert


The truth is that I never shook my shadow

And every day it’s trying to trick me into doing battle

Calling out “faker” only get me rattled

Want to pull me back behind the fence with the cattle

Building your lenses

Digging your trenches

Put me on the front line

Leave me with a dumb mind

With no defenses

But your defenseless

If you can’t stand to feel the pain then you are senseless

Since this

I’ve grown up some

Different kind of fighter

And when the darkness come let it inside you

Your darkness is shining

My darkness is shining

Have faith in myself


I’ve seen a million numbered doors on the horizon

Now which is the future you choosin’ before you gone dying?

I’ll tell you ’bout a secret I’ve been undermining

Every little lie in this world come from dividing

Say you’re my lover, say you’re my homie

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

Because, lights blinding, no way dividing what’s yours or mine when everything’s shining

You darkness is shining, my darkness is shining

Have faith in ourselves


Yes, I’m only loving, only trying to only love

That’s what I’m trying to do is only loving

Yes, I’m only loving, trying only loving, I swear to God

I’m only trying to do the loving

Yes, I’m only lonely, I’ve been missing all my feeling

Only loving, only loving

You say it ain’t loving ain’t loving my loving my loving

But I’m only loving, swear only loving, swear to God I’m only loving

Trying only loving, only loving, only loving, only loving, only loving

Yes, I’m only loving, swear only loving, swear to God I’m only loving, only loving

See, I’m only loving, loving, loving, loving, loving my love

But I’m only loving, loving, loving, loving the truth