For all we hear of Bon Iver, little is known about Sean Carey. And understandably so. For Emma was Justin Vernon's weeping baby, and Sean Carey was just some drummer who was supposed to help fit that massive thing on a live stage. The sticker on Carey's jewel case proudly proclaims it "the debut solo album from SEAN CAREY of BON IVER," but if you're not Justin Vernon, then it doesn't matter. That said, S. Carey should matter, and it would be a shame if this record didn't receive at least as much attention and discussion as his bandmate's.
Whereas Bon Iver's work is raw, cold, aching, S. Carey's solo effort is just as cathartic with a warmer, softer glow. It rises and falls like a slow, slow tide, colored as much by the backdrop of ambient sloshes and long clarinet tones as by its masterful melodic arc. Painstakingly polished and practically orchestral, every second of the songwriting seems carefully perfected. A little bike bell here and some "random" bowing there, hardly heard in the back of "In The Stream," build so perfectly into a thoughtful final verse. And the album on the whole seems to move in a similar, deliberate fashion. "In The Dirt" and "In The Stream" mirror each other on the track listing and seem to act as marker points for a transition from pleasant to plaintive. After "Mothers," the eerie surrendering song at the album's pivot, Carey stokes his history as a drummer with the anxious instrumental "Action," a genius rhythm study that sounds nothing like the other songs but seems to fit as the kick to an ever so slight emotional turn.
But though the album tells its own story, it's hard not to get swept up in each song. Carey's voice keeps to a confessional whisper, and the little details and small sounds are like the songs' own punctuation of short gasps and mumbled half-sentences. It's dizzying, spellbinding, and the gentle little journey is best spent in a pair of headphones, like a meditative boat ride rowed in silence with yourself.