Alexander, “Alexander” (Community Music/Vagrant) – After two-plus years of saving souls from the pulpit of the psych-folk collective Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Alex Ebert is still searching his own. “Alexander,” the 32-year-old’s solo debut, feels as if the songwriter is giving himself a pep talk, the overarching message being: Don’t give up the fight, don’t stand still. Of course, nobody would’ve blamed Ebert for standing still, or at least spending a couple days at the beach, during the Magnetic Zeros’ rigorous 2009-10 touring schedule. Instead he spent his precious free time in his Echo Park apartment, playing and recording everything on “Alexander” – vocals, guitar, keyboards, clarinet, violin, drums, kazoo and percussion – and self-learning some of those instruments along the way.
The final product is alternately loopy and lovely. On one hand, he uses knee slaps and handclaps, and experiments with mouth sounds (“A Million Years”) and strange instrumentation. On the other, he boldly tests the boundaries of his own voice on the soulful “Glimpses,” raps with his demons on the hip-hop lite number “Truth” and reminds himself to keep his senses keen on “Awake My Body.” On “Alexander” (out Tuesday), most of Ebert’s clarion calls are directed at himself, and his sometimes-wonky bedroom project makes finding common ground a lot of fun. Recommended.