S. Carey’s “All We Grow”

“I don’t know what Carey could have done to add to his album, I just know it’s not there for me, as much as I enjoyed listening to it.” -SB

Guest Writer

S. Carey
All We Grow
August 24, 2010

All We Grow is the solo album by Bon Iver’s percussionist Sean Carey, professionally recording as S. Carey. It’s a smooth, forty minute listen that flows into you like silt along the river bed, turning over some finely polished stones along the way.

A favorite for me was “We Fell.” It’s not intricate as it is oscillating in intensity and depth. The vocals are so very purposefully arranged, as if they waft between your ears in the cavity of your head. You could close your eyes and see Carey’s voice, like some disembodied glowing orb, or a firefly, floating back and forth across the backs of your eyelids, the brightness intensifying with the volume and position of his voice between your ears.

I also recommend “In the Dirt,” a delicate piano piece lined with a tempo that keeps the listener centered in a tangible place within the song. The percussion drops away a good third of the way through the song and though there is a loss of a traditional beat, Carey maintains rhythm with the repetition of vocals and wind instruments, later returning to a recognizable percussion of a brush gently gliding against cymbals. The song moves from being grounded in percussion to hovering in a more ethereal place, only to ground itself again, in the dirt, with a subtle return to clapping and a steady bass drum.

I find an affinity for Carey because I can easily drop him into my own music collection. There is a haunting repetition to his layers and arrangements in “Rothko Fields” (a purely instrumental, 1:52 song named after a specific location of which I know nothing of) that reminds me of Sufjan Stephens’s “Tahquamenon Falls” (another purely instrumental, 2:19 song named after a specific location I also know nothing of). There are sounds of settling bodies, chairs or stools creaking as someone sits down to an instrument, that reminds me of Sam Beam and early Iron and Wine.

You might expect the solo album of a band’s percussionist to be made entirely of percussion, but All We Grow displays Carey’s many and varying musical talents. It’s a solid album. It’s the type of music I like to listen to and it would be easy to give this album a well-rounded rating. It’s in the vein of Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine, but I’m not completely sold on it.

What made Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, Sufjan’s Seven Swans and Iron and Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days such great albums was something All We Grow just isn’t nailing for me. Those albums had a certain allure to their sound. They were each something I hadn’t heard before. They were filled with songs I wanted to slip into mix tapes—and they made me want to make physical tapes and not CDs.

I’m not a musician. The calluses on my left hand aren’t fully fleshed out and I can’t tell an oboe from a clarinet . I don’t know what Carey could have done to add to his album, I just know it’s not there for me, as much as I enjoyed listening to it.