Bon Iver's S. Carey Forges His Own Path on 'Range of Light'

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Range of Light
Reviews
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Label: Jagjaguwar

by Kyle McGovern

When Sean Carey, percussionist and backing vocalist for Bon Iver, ventures out on his own under the recording name of S. Carey, he equips himself with the following: an arsenal of instruments; a map marking the real and imaginary locations he highlights in song; and a ton of patience. 

Speaking to SPIN late last year, the Wisconsin singer-songwriter noted that "you can hear the patience" in his music, and he's right. Much like a campfire, Carey's second solo album, Range of Light, is a quiet, slow burn. And, much like Bon Iver's output, Range of Light delivers a set of songs with a fixed sense of place and a nostalgic sense of time.

Carey has described the nine tracks found on his latest LP as being inspired by California and Arizona, where he would spend summers as a kid visiting family, hiking, camping, fishing, and engaging in other outdoorsy activities. In turn, the proper follow-up to 2010's All We Grow (S. Carey dropped an EP, dubbed Hoyas, in 2012) feels elemental, almost like a mist-kissed travelogue that's rich with a sensation of discovery, but imbued with a comforting familiarity. Our guide has been here before, but he's just as gobsmacked at the sights as we are.

And while the presence of Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon is certainly in the air — Vernon supplies backup vocals for several songs on Range of Light and Carey produced much of the record at Vernon's April Base Studios in Wisconsin — Carey is undoubtedly the guide here. He's a Boy Scout with a performance degree in classical percussion, who's been blessed with a stirring whisper of a voice and a wide skill set. Carey knows when to deploy shimmering harp strings ("Fleeting Light"), can fashion a beat out of footprints crushing into fresh snow ("Neverending Fountain"), and commanded his own live band in the studio. Someone get this man a couple of merit badges.

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