By Samuel Cravey
Artist: S. Carey
Album: Hundred Acres
Release Date: February 23, 2018
S. Carey hones in on creating a less complicated alt-folk music with Hundred Acres. More mellowed than his previous two albums, Hundred Acres practically radiates soft, lush sounds. Wisconsin musician, and Bon Iver drummer, Sean Carey uses simple, beautiful guitar chords and melodies combined with his own vocals as the primary focus of his third full length album. All tracks are packed with acoustic guitar and a pleasant, homey ambiance. S. Carey made a genuinely good alt-folk album with Hundred Acres, but I can’t help but feel not enough of the tracks stand out from the rest.
Hundred Acres’ first song “Rose Petals,” is the source of the tender, and warm-hearted tones that flow throughout this album. Using only a few different instruments in unison to emanate tranquil melodies together along gentle vocals, “Rose Petals” sets the example for all the subsequent songs on the album to follow. Musically, the song is of the prettiest on the album, but Carey’s own vocals and lyrics give it a solemn and contemplative feel that seem to haunt all songs regardless of the lyrical content. However, this is a small gripe compared to the rhythmic grace of these songs as a whole. Some songs purposefully have this solemn ambiance engraved in them, the lyrics in “Hundred Acres,” “I limped away, you couldn’t say… and what on earth to do…” to “I want to start anew… I’m learning the hard way”. “True North,” has the most stand-out vocals on the whole album. S. Carey romantically restates his wedding vows in this song making for a delightful, heartfelt track. All the wonderful nuances in the seemingly simple song development can easily be missed because of how easy it is to get caught up in Carey’s rich, smooth voice. The violin string arrangements in this album cannot go without being mentioned. S. Carey’s skill as a composer shines with the inclusion of strings in his folk style.
By the time the album winds down to the last four tracks, they start blending and become difficult to distinguish from one another. This is fine if one is okay with listening to beautiful ambiance music, but after three or four listens, this trait becomes problematic. I think it’s symptomatic of a lack of percussive instruments throughout the album. Without a steady drum beat to give the songs structure, many of the songs fall short of becoming fully realized; instead, fading into the surreal background sounds. Luckily, there are enough truly magnificent songs to retain listener interest overall.