Hey, you guys hear that Sean Carey is the drummer for Bon Iver? Yeah! You (probably) already knew that! That's probably because everything ever written about All We Grow
in the past few weeks incessantly
mentions that little tidbit of apparently really vital and important information, along with some measure of surprise that All We Grow
happens to be a really solid and assured debut, as if it wasn't supposed to be (because he's a drummer right!). If I was a drummer, I'd be pretty offended by now: apparently, you guys really suck at solo albums!
I guess all these reviewers are just trying to find some narrative to help them express just how surprisingly excellent All We Grow
is. Because, seriously: All We Grow
is the kind of assured, adventurous debut most singer/songwriters don't get around to realizing until their third album. Songs like "In the Dirt" and "In the Stream" especially prove Carey's wide-ranging talent: the former is an expansive, anthemic effort spurred on by Carey's ingeniously repetitive piano and flute arrangements, while the latter is a tender piano ballad, one that's both emotionally and musically bare, held together by Carey's smooth and affecting voice. Both songs are excellent and moving in their own rights, but it's the assurance with which Carey pulls both very different songs off that's particularly striking.
Both songs also signify All We Grow
's two heavily divided thematic factions, with one being the stripped down and the emotionally fragile, and the other being the vast and the expansive. Carey does both with aplomb, but, for me, it's the larger-scaled songs that stand out. These songs indicate that Carey is influenced by more than just Nick Drake and Elliott Smith; bits and pieces of minimalist artists like Steve Reich and Arvo Part creep up in songs like "In the Dirt" and the driving and straightforward "Action", while "We Fell" and the title track's inspired, winding arrangements show special devotion to Talk Talk and the Low Level Owl
albums. Carey's exuberance in showing off his wide range of excellent influences and his attempts to create something of equal stature, rather than choosing to just play it safe, helps set All We Grow
apart from being just another bland entry into a crowded genre.
At its rare worst, All We Grow
can drag a little bit, even at a relatively condensed nine tracks: "Mothers" and "Broken" are particularly a little long. But All We Grow
is still a remarkable debut, a perfect companion for these upcoming leafy fall months, and a huge indication of really good things to come. Even if it is by a drummer.