[sic] Magazine

S. Carey – All We Grow

Sometimes I wish I had the capacity for selective amnesia. Aside from the fact that it would mean I could watch The Usual Suspects and have marginally more justification for being continually self-congratulatory at piecing the puzzle together moments before all is revealed, it might also allow me to listen to All We Grow and remove Bon Iver from the equation entirely. Maybe.

It’s going to be next to impossible to hear about Sean Carey without somewhere being included “…drummer for Bon Iver”. Over a period of two years, Carey toured extensively for what is often now considered one of the benchmark albums for grieving, minimalist folk: For Emma, Forever Ago. During that time, and indeed isolated from his own loved one, Sean Carey composed material for All We Grow, recording pieces during the intermittent tour breaks. Comparisons then are likely to be rather more fundamental than simply inevitable. I have, however, made a steadfast attempt to suspend that for the moment.

On the surface, All We Grow is a very pretty and heart-felt album that errs on the side of understated. Thankfully, it is also filled with tracks that are deftly layered with warm affection, and – every so often – something a little more beautiful than its prevalent prettiness. ‘Mothers’, for example, while one of the more subdued tracks on the album, is also one of its standouts. The calm vocal technique is perfectly matched with sparse but intricate acoustic guitar, and ultimately not only allows for closer insight, but makes it all the more compelling for doing so.

Elsewhere, the mild-mannered aesthetic and quiet movement of the album at times belies some of its depth and the often complicated layers of instrumentation. Remoteness, separation and perhaps the sheer volume of space are apparent as recurring themes or sources of inspiration, often presented or explored via a delicate, slightly drawn out pace. The title track would be the epitome of all the above, giving the impression of having been condensed and then protracted into four minutes of considerably measured composition.

I imagine that Sean Carey has become an integral part of the Bon Iver dynamic. Removed from that, I couldn’t help but expect something akin to the equivalent of a TV spin-off, where rarely the result is anywhere near as good (let alone better) than from whence it came, and where success lies on the borderline of being both familiar and original without overtly adhering to a proven formula that utilises fewer characters.

This is where the selective amnesia would come in handy, because while All We Grow is assuredly not “Bon Iver: Summer Nights Edition”, the association, similarities and inherent gentleness of the album could well make it difficult for the two to be considered independently – something All We Grow quite rightly deserves. If we set aside the things we know – the foregone conclusions – what remains is revealed as a surprisingly intricate, warm-hearted album that is memorable for being Sean Carey’s alone.

~All We Grow is released on the 24th of August 2010 Jagjaguwar on 2010.~