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S. Carey: All We Grow (Jagjaguwar) 

All We Grow, the solo debut from Bon Iver drummer S. (Sean) Carey, doesn't stray far from Bon Iver territory—a Wisconsin-bred sort of neo-minimalism that revels in spare, crisp instrumentation.

Carey's songs don't echo with that same haunted isolation of Bon Iver debut For Emma, Forever Ago, but they're still rainy-day sounds for lonely souls. On All We Grow, you can hear why those same For Emma songs can grow with storm-like intensity live.

Just nine songs in 40 minutes, All We Grow is not the sort of album to yield hit singles. It's most compelling at its most percussive—like "In the Dirt" and the instrumental "Action"—when Carey's multiple talents shine best together.

Mostly built on piano and guitar, the album is neither folk nor pop, owing its deeper roots to Carey's classical and jazzy instincts (he holds a performance degree in classical percussion). It's focused and pretty, but Carey the songwriter seems hesitant to reveal much or connect verbally with the same force he exhibits musically.

What sets Carey apart is the deeper background of sounds, particularly the jazzy flourishes, like the sleepy woodwinds on the title track and the patiently unspooling melody on the pensive six-minute album closer "Broken."

All We Grow is a fascinating look at the full palette that Carey brings to Bon Iver.

More by Eric Swedlund

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