S. Carey: All We Grow

C+

S. Carey

Album: All We Grow
Label: Jagjaguwar

Even if Sean Carey weren’t a member of Wisconsin indie-folk outfit Bon Iver, he’d likely draw comparisons to his bandmate and reigning north-woods king of pain, Justin Vernon. On his solo debut, All We Grow, Carey goes in search of that elusive For Emma, Forever Ago feeling, evoking a similarly chilly and emotion-choked sense of isolation via pocket symphonies composed of delicately strummed acoustic guitars, ghostly choral vocals, and muffled waves of dissonant noise. The abstract soundscapes Carey layers on his songs betray a sideman’s sensibility: It’s difficult not to get swept up in the carefully constructed build of “We Fell,” which grows from a few clanging piano chords and Carey’s inarticulate emoting to a powerfully cathartic, hymn-like peak. Carey isn’t as assured when he moves from the margins of All We Grow to the center; his vocals are a nondescript murmur, rendering already underwritten folkie laments like “In The Stream” and “Move” as pretty but intangible mood pieces. Carey has an eye for sonic detail that will surely benefit the next Bon Iver record, but on All We Grow, neither his songs nor the way he delivers them stick around once the blurry cacophony fades.