Returning to his favored themes — love, betterment, the connections between exploration of the personal and the natural world — Sean Carey’s Hundred Acres plots a well-measured and mannered growth from Range of Light, his last full-length from 2014.
“Meadow Song”, “Rose Petals”, “Hundred Acres”: Carey’s songs tend to lean on images of outdoor scenery. In every landscape, though, is a human silhouette, its outline flexible enough for any listener to fit themselves into. “Yellowstone” isn’t an entreaty to visit one of America’s most miraculous national parks specifically, but to keep the small miracle of intimacy sparking by going somewhere nice yet nowhere in particular: “We should lose our way/Before we lose our minds.” The direction of “True North”, a sweet romantic sweep finely detailed with soft snare, strings and slide guitar, snowbanks and frozen lakes at night, is the promise of a forthright and upright future.
Hundred Acres dips deep into the well of tranquility that the pastoral places beyond the edges of suburbia provide for inspiration, but makes a practical decision not to mirror the risk and chaos of real nature’s inherent asymmetricality. Nary a note is misplaced and all the corners are rounded. Contributors such as notable indie folk collaborator Casey Foubert (Sufjan Stevens, The Shins), Gordi, and Rob Moose of yMusic stand out for how much they seamlessly fit in. Individual instruments are smoothed to the service of the lissome whole. Carey’s vocals are no exception; they are set prominently enough in the mix itself, but his voice is home in a gentle tenor range, albeit with frequent falsetto swings.
Hundred Acres’ environment can occasionally border on the too-cozy and tender, and, as has been the case on previous records, certain songs simply wind down more than they come to any conclusion. Still, Carey ably shepherds the whole sentimental journey.