I suppose by now, I can dub myself Nerdist’s resident Bon Iver liaison / fangirl. My blog partner, Matt, has told me countless times that I’m borderline obsessed and might want to tone it down a notch (or 5). So have peace of mind Matthew, the stream of consciousness/word vomit that you claim possesses me when Bon Iver or frontman Justin Vernon is mentioned – will stop. Why? Because Jagjaguwar Records has debuted the vaguely familiar sidekick of my boy Justin –Sean Carey.
Commonly known as “The only other dude in that Bon Iver A cappella video that has a solo” (see above), Sean Carey has finally found the time to write and record his own album, separate from Bon Iver. I’ve been waiting for this album for quite sometime, and before I listened through it, I admit I was nervous for 3 reasons.
1. It would suck.
2. It would sound exactly like Bon Iver.
3. It would be brilliant and then I’d find out that he wasn’t touring anywhere near me.
To immediately discount worry number one, Sean Carey’s All We Grow definitely didn’t suck. There were some mild resemblances to For Emma, Forever Ago, when it came to vocal harmony and instrumentation, but nothing that was unoriginal or unwarranted (worry number two taken care of). So leave it to Murphy’s Law… S. Carey is touring with one of my favorites, The Tallest Man On Earth, and no, he wont be anywhere near me over the next six months. Damn you, worry number three!
The amount of emotion that was jammed into this album is astonishing. With a mix of both purely instrumental and vocal tracks, his piano arrangements brought tears to my eyes. S. Carey has a generally lower register than counterpart Justin Vernon, which is the first obvious difference to his previous work.
Beginning with “Move”, the woodwinds and horns mixed with bells chiming softly from a distance leaves you with clear images of anything tranquil. Lyrically, Carey began his album with a love song, depicting the simple setting of a shore and himself longing to simply “run fingers through your hair” – this alone made me blush. Later, we hear his single, “In the Dirt” which starts with a classic piano melody that recurs through the entire album. “Don’t” is a commonly uttered word on this track, lending a sense of regret and trepidation to the tone of the song . It’s mixed with his own harmonies, which when paired with the emotive piano and clarinet, can really impact your current emotional state (or at least mine). However, he did bring in some unconventional compositions and patterns to songs like “In The Stream” reminding me of the beautifully forlorn Bon Iver track, “The Wolves (Act I & II)”. What these songs have in common is their timing. Unlike most indie rock tracks, there is no register for the beat. You cannot count beats in 3/4, 4/4 or any other time; it is constantly changing – speeding up and slowing down. In this song, certain melodies weave in and out, change tempo, and flow through an array of instruments. Listen closely, his mixes are almost magical: perfectly panning clarinets, bells, and even clapping hands – making the listener feel blissfully surrounded.
I have now made S. Carey’s All We Grow an essential album on my iPod and various “calm” playlists. It’s only been out a few days, but I hope and believe he will be welcomed to the singer / songwriter community with open arms (watch out Sufjan). If you are lucky enough to reside in a city along his tour, please go and let me know how it was!
Tour Dates HERE
Image: S. Carey