Review Summary: Keep your feet on the ground and your eyes to the sky.
My love for folk exists at an odds with my personal trends of music enjoyment. For music to be arresting to me, there generally has to be a sense of ambition and sonic adventurousness, a willingness to explore beyond the norms and try new things. And while some folk artists strive to push the boundaries of the genre, oftentimes they seem complacent, taking comfort in familiar sounds in order to battle their personal demons on their own terms.
It’s also strange that even though my love for this album was evident from the start, its faults were at the front of my mind the first time I listened to it. The music is consistently gorgeous, lush, and inspiring, but there’s a quiet uniformity that strangles the album, one that makes it clear there’s no strong intention to try anything new here.
That being said, S. Carey does nail the base foundations of the genre perfectly. There’s a deep, rich beauty to every one of the tracks here, so much so that there is no clear weak link. The whole thing wraps you up like a warm blanket, just as the lyrics express an eerie uneasiness. And as you settle deeper, the faults become less and less evident. It slowly eschews its influences and comes into its own sound. His subtly strange instrumentation perks the ears on further listens, with the quiet country twang of “Fool’s Gold” sounding more unique than perhaps it should, and the gorgeous combination of strings and glitchy percussion in “Emery,” unveiling itself as a clear highlight. Even the title track, which at first sounded to me like a bad Sufjan Stevens cover of a Bon Iver song, now feels rooted in a familiar but quietly inventive sound that’s no more skippable than anything else.
I guess that when it comes down to it, folk music was never about reinventing the wheel. Sometimes, it’s just about that feeling of thinking back when you know you should be looking forward. It’s a magnet pulling you to your past and a reason to keep your eyes to the sky. Carey gets that. He knows that what we need isn’t either change or stability, and instead offers a rolling tide of familiar sounds that flow spectacularly well, breezing from one track to the next. At the end of the day we’re all on our own, just desperately clinging to that familiar thread to base ourselves off of from this moment onward. And I suppose that for me, that’s what folk music is. And this album happens to do it better than others.