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S. Carey, a.k.a. Sean Carey of Bon Iver.
S. Carey, a.k.a. Sean Carey of Bon Iver. Cameron Wittig
If you've paid even a tiny bit of attention to NPR Music in the past couple years, you've likely heard us gush (and gush) about Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. For a lot of us — I'm looking at you, Stephen Thompson — Bon Iver's 2008 album For Emma, Forever Ago was one of the decade's best records. It's the kind of album that makes you wish for more, in any form, from Vernon or anyone who had anything to do with it. So imagine our collective glee when we learned that Sean Carey, Bon Iver's drummer, was coming out with his own solo release. All We Grow is a stunningly beautiful album Carey pieced together, layer by layer, during brief breaks from touring with Bon Iver between 2008 and 2010.
A lot of times, when drummers strike out on their own, they end up producing beat-heavy records where their own percussion work, for better or worse, remains the centerpiece of each track. In the case of Carey, who has a performance degree in classical percussion, the focus is on melody and voice, with carefully crafted piano lines, sweet harmonies and lots of moody ambience. There are still plenty of compelling rhythms — check out the guitar-drum dance in "Action" — but they take a backseat to the other sounds Carey creates.
It also turns out that Sean Carey is a confident lead singer. He doesn't stretch into the plaintive falsetto range Justin Vernon employs so effectively on For Emma, Forever Ago. But Carey's voice is just as warm, rich and fragile.
All We Grow is a meditative record, one you'll want to hear on headphones on a quiet night. Carey has a gift for crafting expansive, cinematic pieces that unfold and bloom slowly and delicately, so be sure to take some time with it. All We Grow comes out Aug. 24, but until then, you can hear the entire thing here. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.