- It's exploration of beauty and tragedy through nature
- It's musical flourishes
- It's tendency to lose itself in its own simplicities
As the winter nights warp into springtime days, the coldness of the earth evaporates into the warmth of the rising sun, absorbing our precious resources in order to fuel the flames of the fire that burn through summertime. As we sheepishly awake from hibernation-like comas of post-Christmas blues and transform like caterpillars into butterflies of the earth, spreading our social wings as we fly through fields of blossoming trees, the beauty of our reality returning from its seasonal exorcism.
The transformation from cold to warm, from night to day, from dark to light; that is the transition which Bon Iver drummer Sean Carey allows to blossom on his third solo album, Hundred Acres. Arriving four years after the mountain-sounding California-inspired ambience of Carey’s last outing, Range of Light, and two years on from the masterful pulsing warmth of Bon Iver’s Electronica-dyed folk outing 22, A Million. If his previous efforts were soundtracks to traversing mountains, then Hundred Acres is the near-perfect accompaniment to a mid-spring walk through the woods, where pastel colours paint a thousand tales and the grass grows once more.
Removing his music from the electronica-infused trappings of his day job, and soaking the traditions of folk in an indie-filled bubble bath, Hundred Acres is a collection of crossroads where strings pluck to and fro against darkening dreamlike keys, as flourishing orchestral movements arise as quickly as they quieten, blossoming like the nature he so describes throughout each moment. Percussive patters plateau across Hundred Acres, plotting points of pivot for the more delicate movements of music, where strings slide and honey-dripping harmonies seep through, blurring in and out of the background like the slipping and sliding of consciousness as dream and reality, beauty and tragedy, nature and technology blur into one.
Much like his music, Carey’s lyrical narration dips its toes in the deep end of the river, allowing its current to send it toing and froing through moods as often as the weather changes on a daily basis, navigating the relationship between happiness and sadness, and the tragedy of beauty and the beauty of tragedy. Carey writes with the thoughtfulness and honesty of Father John Misty, but delivers it with the precision of Tame Impala, often letting his poetic musings fall between the cracks of sound illuminating inside your eardrums, none more obvious then on early-player ‘Yellowstone’: “Safe’s the kind of word that makes a love grow old and die/I knelt, I wept, the grass was burnt caramel, and your well went dry/and we should lose our way before we lose our minds.”
In a world where indie-folk is both arduously over-bloated yet criminally underrated, Hundred Acres neither adds nor takes away from the genres traditions, however adds yet another piece to the puzzle, and a warmth like no other. Whereas many indie-folk musings are movements composed of singular moods, Carey curates the interdimensional crossroad between two polar opposites, overwhelmingly harmonic on moments such as ‘Emery’ and ‘Hideout’ as the tragedy of beauty, particularly in the art of love and heartbreak, coalesces through juxtaposing lyrics of sadness that float across flourishes of happiness.
On a project where Carey could play it safe in recreating the music that gives purpose to his day-job, he instead opts to paint a picture of the harshness of reality amidst the beauty of nature, infusing traditional folk trappings with the lo-fi edge of indie in such a way that is as original as it is borrowed, and yet, somewhat beautifully tragic, comes off wonderfully.