For almost as long as he has accompanied Justin Vernon on drums in Good IverSean Carey has released music as a solo artist under the name S. Carey, launching the project in 2010 with a collection of ambient folk and pop songs on a smaller scale than Vernon’s band. Over time, this outlet flourished alongside Bon Iver’s shift from ramshackle folk to glitch-pop, with Carey’s latest album Open me combining the delicacy of the project always kept with new orchestral and electronic heights.
Lyrically, it makes sense that his first record since 2018 (and therefore his first since the pandemic) is concerned with a cathartic airing of anxieties, which range from the personal – those related to relationships and parenthood – to the global. , with the woozy Auto-Tune of “Starless” taking on the ever-looming concerns over climate change. Yet despite all of this, the sun still manages to break through the smog, the album‘s tug of war between despair and hope still seeing the latter victorious. Carey sums it up himself when he sums up the collection of songs as “patient, epic and hopeful”.
With the album now available via Jagjaguwar, stream and read Carey’s track-by-track breakdown Open me below.
This song was going to be either the first or the last. It starts the record heavy, but it sets the tone. I remember driving around and blasting a demo I made with some cheap synths and blown drums and I felt like it was something special. I started to imagine a long outro where the song dissipates into a beautiful chorale with brass. Thematically, the song is about the deepest love a parent has for a child. The greatest fear of any parent is losing a child. So this song contemplates that feeling and faces my fear.
This was co-written with my teammate, Ben Lester. It came with that haunting Prophet 6 patch and I love all the layers of other sounds coming in and out, hissing like bugs in the night. The lyrics are inspired by the stress that climate change plays in our lives as humans. Modernity against the power of nature.
3. “Sun Shower”
While much of the record is about grief, “Sunshower” is about an open heart, a heart of hope. That wonderful feeling of rain falling with a piercing sun. The opening of the sky in water and light.
It’s a song for my daughter. Another co-write with Ben Lester. I love how synth and electronic drums blend with acoustic instruments like double bass, strings, horns and piano. I also really like how each section of the song flows together at the end in an almost symphonic way.
5. “Waking Up”
This is the most bare track on the record. Instrumentation, delivery and intimate lyrics. The song is about loss, change, grief and waking up to a new reality.
It was one of the first songs we worked on for this record. I feel like it’s cinematic in a way. I have a lot of images and visions when I listen to it. I like the juxtaposition of a kind of dark abstract lyrics with a more driving kick drum pulse.
Here’s another song from a parent’s perspective: watching your kids grow up too fast. For me, as a touring musician, I spend a lot of time away from home, so I deal with those feelings.
8. “Where I Was”
This song was the last to take shape on the record. Another on mourning, but a little further in the process, “down”. I love the soundscape here, and the affected vocals just live in the track in a beautiful way.
9. “Break Me Down”
The title track of the disc. It is a call to be vulnerable. Not only does it take a lot of vulnerability to write and share an album like this, but more importantly, it’s become like a mantra of how I want to change my life and the way I live. I remember writing the lyrics sitting under a huge oak tree in the forest, wondering what was in store for me in life.
I actually had this basic synth idea and melody lying around for years, and I finally found a home for it. The last track vibrates everywhere. I’m really happy with the vocal performance of this one and the arrangement – it’s patient, epic and hopeful. I like how it pushes to encapsulate the record as a whole and ends on a more upbeat light note.