S. Carey: Hundred Acres
“All we need is 100 acres and some room to breathe,” Sean Carey croons on his new LP—a plainspoken request underpinned by folky fingerpicking and suspended violin notes that drift through like white clouds against a blue, blanketing sky. The message couldn’t be clearer: Carey craves simplicity, a return to nature as a human being, sure, but also as a musician. On his first two solo LPs, the Bon Iver drummer meticulously overdubbed jazzy, ambient soundscapes; Hundred Acres strips away the layers and reframes Carey as a more traditional singer-songwriter, for better or worse. It’s not quite the infamous “Wisconsin cabin retreat” approach that bandmate Justin Vernon utilized to craft his breakout Bon Iver LP, For Emma, Forever Ago , but the stripped-down quality of these songs conjures a similar image. Résumé aside, several moments almost blatantly recall pre-fame Vernon— from the cascading piano chords of “Hideout” to the stacked, falsettoheavy harmonies of “Yellowstone.” Throughout, Carey eschews mystery in favor of intimacy, ruminating on family and the natural world over simple, mostly acoustic chord changes. Hundred Acres feels a bit empty without the rich ambiance that defined albums like 2014’s Range of Light . And around halfway through the new record, he seems to recognize those limitations himself, fleshing out “Emery” with a muffled, clattering drum kit and “Fool’s Gold” with a twangy guitar drone. At the core, Carey is most compelling as a sound-sculptor—the more he puts in, the more we get out.