S. Carey - Supermoon [EP] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

S. Carey

Supermoon [EP] (2015)


When I first delved into the music of Sean Carey, I had the best of intentions: I’d view it through the scope of a separate singer-songwriter and not through his direct link to Bon Iver and Justin Vernon. Though Carey is a fellow Eau Claire, Wisconsin musician and provides percussion for Bon Iver, he also demonstrates an immense amount of songwriting talent and has released critically-acclaimed music in his own right, 2010’s All We Grow and 2014’s Range of Light.

But I couldn't stop comparing the two. Especially for someone with a decidedly punk palette, Carey’s orchestrations-- leaning heavily on quiet, moody atmospheres and multiple layers of peculiar vocal melodies-- sound a hell of a lot like a subdued Justin Vernon. They seem to have been raised in the same school of musical thought: the more complex, yet muted the instrumentation, the better. Lyrics and melodies are never straightforward or the guiding force of the song. The only easily apparent distinction is that Carey’s music tends to be a little more cinematic in scope and much more reliant on piano for structure and rhythm. It’s almost as if Carey takes Vernon-penned music and re-scores it for film.

His latest release, Supermoon EP, begs the question: is this really necessary? It’s only got one new song and Radiohead cover to offer, and is mainly filled with new takes on old tracks. Its production background- recorded during the super moon of 2014- adds an element of whimsy, but it’s not at all tied to its titular concept. “We Fell” and “In the Stream”, from All We Grow, and “Fire-Scene” and “Neverending Fountain”, from Range of Light, are supposed to be ‘reimaginings’, but really seem closer to stripped-down takes. Not much is altered from the songs, but they seem a little more personal and it’s easier to detect the impressive individual parts. The eponymous new tune, “Supermoon” is hushed and piano-driven, and could be at home amongst his earlier releases. Carey’s take on Radiohead’s “Bulletproof…I Wish I Was” is somehow more atmospheric and moody than the original, but allows for some haunting strings near the finale that are a welcome addition.

So...no, it's not a very necessary addition to Carey's catalog. But for more passionate fans, Supermoon E.P. offers an interesting look at some of Carey’s stronger songs. It’s intimate and feels less over-produced than his previous releases; while often a little sleepy, it’s a glimpse at a gifted musician and songwriter stripping down to the essentials.