Release Date: Apr 1, 2014
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
‘What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?’ Answer: ‘a drummer’. Type in ‘Ringo Starr was…’ into a Google search, the top predictive result would read: ‘Ringo Starr wasn’t the best drummer in The Beatles’. It’s no revelation that drummers get a bad rap from their musical peers at times. Whether it’s a lack of finesse, lack of musical prowess, or lack of moral fibre, the men with the sticks are often unfairly labelled with tags along the lines of ‘knuckle dragging Neanderthal’, ‘cheaper than a drum machine’, or ‘girlfriend-shagging bastard’.
There is an unwritten rule that you should never use the phrase “achingly beautiful” when reviewing pretty music. Writers love it. They use it to describe guitar riffs. Hit singles. Every song Lana Del Rey has ever breathed on. It’s so nonsensical and overused that there is even a Twitter ….
Talk of S Carey must mention his connection with Bon Iver. S Carey, or plain old Sean, was part of Justin Vernon’s band as a classically trained percussionist (with a love of jazz drumming) and merged his own harmonies with the singer’s to flesh out and create a spectral density to Vernon’s fragile debut. Similar in spirit to the equally spare and meditative folk-post-rock of Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes, Casey’s work bears influences of sepia-tinged tight-knit harmonies from The Beach Boys to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, but takes these forces into the great beyond and the realm of the personal, reflective and meditative ruminations on exterior landscape mapping the interior.
S. Carey recently posted a series of pictures to his Instagram that correspond to each of the songs on his new album, Range of Light, but even without the visual aid you can practically see these images while listening. Each song possesses a filtered approximation of natural beauty, and the outdoor environment is a renewable resource for Carey’s songwriting: summer lakes in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, nights in Marfa, Tex., and the deserts of Arizona and California.
With his pastoral north woods orchestrations and evocative soundscapes, Wisconsin native S. Carey channels his admiration for American naturalist John Muir on 2014's Range of Light. Expanding upon the tones of his 2010 debut, All We Grow, Carey digs even deeper with this detailed paean to California's Sierra Nevada mountain range. With roots in classical, jazz, and pop, he approaches his music more as a composer than a songwriter, echoing the type of sprawling modernist Americana that Sufjan Stevens first introduced a decade earlier.
In the world of Sean Carey, the background is the foreground. The 28-year-old songwriter has a degree in classical percussion from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and his talents have been on display as the drummer and backing vocalist for Bon Iver since 2007. He’s meant to be a part of the backdrop in that band, but even when he’s supposed to take the lead—as he did on his solo debut in 2010, All We Grow, and his 2012 EP, Hoyas—Carey places the emphasis of his music less on his voice and more on what he can create with his hands.
Paint a picture of S. Carey, and it’s difficult to not end up with a portrait that’s smudged with the distinguishable flecks of his collaborative project Bon Iver. But unlike so many who would scour at those who draw ties between their flagship band and their other projects, Carey’s solo affair is not shy of embracing the vessel in which he journeyed to prominence.With the distinctive markings of Bon Iver’s craft etched so vividly on the surface, it should come as no surprise that ‘Range Of Light’ can be considered dreamy in every imaginable sense of the term.
The solo material from a member of a great band can wind up going in one of a couple different directions. For every time that a George Harrison proves himself on an All Things Must Pass, there will be a Keith Moon shouting on a Two Sides of the Moon. Like Moon before him, S. Carey (aka Bon Iver contributor Sean Carey) is the percussionist of a well-established band who does relatively little drumming on his own solo work.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Range of Light can be summed up, in its entirety, by the opening track 'Glass/Film'. It opens up with some smartly modulated synth notes, which sound like the audio equivalent of a droplet hitting a still pool, conveyed with spooky accuracy. As this sound dissipates, a few gentle piano chords play over the top of some restrained bass percussion sounds.
Despite his fright-suggesting musical moniker, Sean Carey has more in common with a dream than a nightmare. Given his standing as the drummer for misty-eyed nature-pop band Bon Iver, it’s no surprise Carey’s solo stuff also lies in the realm of foggy, organic, uber-emotional heart-drainage. Range Of Light‘s opening track, Glass/Film, sets the mood for the entire album.
Sean Carey's first album, 2010's All We Grow, was a terrific headphones album. To use an overused adjective, it was completely intimate, but in a way that goes beyond simply baring one's soul in verse. In short, Carey is capable of a musical frankness rather than an emotional one. With instruments closely mic'd, Carey's voice barely rises above a whisper.
Todd Terje, It's Album Time It would have been easy for It’s Album Time to be only half as good as it turned out to be, because resting laurels on an innovative idea is always easier than mining the contents to discover the depth. Luckily, Norwegian producer/DJ/facial hair enthusiast Todd Terje cares too much. He always has. It’s but one of the reasons he developed such a seminally progressive reputation in the mid-00’s (his frequent collaborations with fellow Norwegian and DJ icon Lindstrøm probably didn’t hurt).
S. Carey may be best known for his work with Bon Iver, but since the release of the band’s debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, he’s crafted his own singular aesthetic across a handful of solo releases. Carey’s first record, All You Grow, and the follow-up EP, Hoyas, were beautifully layered records that privileged sound design over rigid song construction, blending freeform jazz with the tones of Americana.