Artists from popular and well-established bands face the misfortune of invariably having their side-projects compared to their fame-maker. Such is the case with Sean Carey, drummer for Bon Iver and the brains behind new project S. Carey. Like Bon Iver's overnight hit For Emma, Forever Ago, S. Carey's 2010 debut All We Grow is best classified as low-key, whispery indie-folk touched by melancholy.
Tone and genre aside, the similarities grow sparser. S. Carey is more buoyant and ethereal than Bon Iver. And the instrumentation is much lusher, with oboe, timpani, saxophone, flute, and xylophone threaded through the guitar and piano. Although Carey crams what seems like an entire graduating class of music majors into his arrangements, the result feels surprisingly sparse and vaporous.
The sound isn't as immediately affecting as Bon Iver's simple guitar and falsetto-laced harmonies, but it's gentler and more contemplative. S. Carey's rise to prominence will probably be more gradual than the Justin Vernon-led outfit. But if you're looking for a soundtrack to sigh to, it's easy enough to find rewarding moments here.
S. Carey plays the Badlander Monday, May 30, at 9 PM with Other Lives and Butter. $10.