When Sean Carey first introduced his brand of celestial, orchestrally endowed indie folk in 2010, it seemed like a natural outgrowth of the tones and themes he'd been helping collaborator Justin Vernon explore as a member of Bon Iver. Where Vernon subsequently cast himself as a somewhat mercurial and shape-shifting artist, Carey's solo work outside of Bon Iver has remained rather steadfast in its nature. Over the course of three full-length albums, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has crafted a patient world of glacial chamber folk that calls to mind the aching tenderness of Sufjan Stevens and the icy beauty of Sigur Ros. Carey's fourth record, Break Me Open, does little to disrupt his familiar musical patterns, though its lyrics are certainly more melancholic than earlier outings. Themes of grief, loss, and mortality do battle with gratitude and kindness as his already introspective style veers toward the confessional. As always, Carey's personal moods are deeply intertwined with the natural world, which provides the bedrock of his art. On "Sunshowers," the sweet arpeggios of his piano meet icy digital interference as he stacks rich harmonies that allude to sun-drenched swims and salty tears. The wistful introduction of "Waking Up" sets up one of the album's most vulnerable tracks as the singer tries to reconcile the heartbreak of lost love. Other tracks include "Desolate," "Paralyzed," and "Crestfallen," giving the listener an indication of Carey's struggles. Like his other albums, the music is all very beautiful, if somewhat ephemeral. It's hard to pick out a memorable melody among these ten poignant missives, which tend to run together in a bittersweet blur.
Break Me Open Review
by Timothy Monger