When S. Carey decided to record acoustic re-imaginings of some of his best songs from past albums and EP’s I got a little excited. Ok, maybe a lot more excited. I’ve seen what acoustic re-imaginings can do for previously released songs. Most notably in the same vein, S. Carey and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver did a 40 minute session for 4AD of 5 Bon Iver songs. The duo, perched opposite each other on dueling grand pianos, managed to pull even more beauty and grace from the songs than anyone had thought possible. By popular opinion the most hated song on Bon Iver’s 2012 release, Bon Iver, that brought forth the most head-scratching song from their catalogue to date, “Beth/Rest,” was reinterpreted so gorgeously on grand piano that everyone now loved it. Having listened to S. Carey’s Supermoon EP, out today on Jagjaguwar, I can unequivocally say that this has had the same effect.
The EP begins with an alternate version of “Fire-Scene,” once laden with acoustic guitar, piano flourishes and bass to act as a backbone, this song reminded me so much of flying above clouds or spinning around in circles until you get dizzy. It encapsulated the feeling of being carefree, but at the same time, Sean is singing about wanting honesty, about the effect broken trust has on a relationship, which is the exact opposite of having that carefree attitude. On the new EP however, the lone instrumentation is his piano, singular and fragile in the way the notes are struck. In conjunction with Sean’s voice the aftermath of the act of betrayal is tangible. He sounds utterly broken.
On the second track, “We Fell,” the original version was already stunning with its lush strings layered vocal arrangement. It opens beautifully into such a rich, sprawling coda. It was instantly my favorite track on the All We Grow album. This new version, however, starts off with dampened piano that added a playfulness to the song that was missing before, it goes into a coda at the end as well, but there’s an added layer of strings, and what I think is French horn, while the playful tinkles of piano remain.
The third song, and entirely new composition called “Supermoon,” another somber piano driven ballad with this question that hangs at the end of every verse: “who’s to say where we’ll end up?”
The fourth song is another reinterpretation of an older song, “In The Stream.” Sticking with piano and strings on this one, it’s hard to imagine how one could make this already gorgeous song even more gorgeous. Well S. Carey has managed this. His choices of string intensity and vocal inflections change the feel of the song ever so slightly into something surprisingly uplifting, akin to the most gorgeous sunrise.
Fifth is “Neverending Fountain,” which is the song that’s earned the title of most played in my Spotify account. Another song stripped back to just piano and Carey’s voice, I’m reminded of the use of this song in the promo video for his album. He reflected on his relationship with nature and life with his family and new baby. These elements I think are evident in the way Carey sings “when we look up…” The sense of wonderment that comes along with bringing a new life into the world, and the amazement of watching that new life grow, as well as the life in nature around you comes across in the way Carey ends the song with “I will be home, hawk-eyed.”
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The final song is a cover of Radiohead’s “Bullet Proof.. I Wish I Was.” While Carey doesn’t break any new ground on his version, his voice serves to soften the darkness of the lyrics a bit.
Supermoon was primarily recorded during the supermoon event in August 2014, and while this effort is nowhere near as experimental or adventurous as S. Carey’s last EP, Hoyas, but this EP can be seen as a great companion piece to both of his full length albums; offering a more pure interpretation of some of Carey’s best work, full of introspection and jaw dropping beauty. There were a few points during this EP where I shed a few tears. S. Carey has the ability to tap into the most vulnerable and human parts of ourselves with just a single note. His celebration of the fragility of life and his ability to bring into focus the minutiae of it is something that I hope he holds onto for years to come.
Article by: Lesley Keller