S. Carey, Hoyas

S. Carey took a break from Bon Iver to put together this dream-like headphones record.

Reading over my notes for the new EP from S. Carey (also known as the drummer and supporting vocalist for Bon Iver), I keep coming back to one word: dream.

There are many kinds of dreams, of course—night terrors and lucid dreams, for example. Rarely do musical assertions of dreams wander outside of the context of pleasureable rest, like lying half-awake amid a swirl of pillows and blankets, the light coming through the shades more of a distant idea than an immediate truth.

Sure, it sounds cliché, but valid elements of art only become clichés when they are abused, and that’s part of what makes S. Carey’s Hoyas EP so fantastic—it’s the art of suggestion in its purest form.

Hoyas opens with “Two Angles,” an ominous, Thom Yorke–esque track that moves behind synth and simulated drums that seem to trip over themselves just enough to not sound forced. The track is the darkest S. Carey has ever released, with subtle blips and pops reminiscent of The Postal Service, without Gibbard’s discord of brokenness that seems to run through his catalog.

Early on, it’s evident that, much like S. Carey’s counterpart Justin Vernon, the vocals are instruments themselves. Drifting in and out, like the Others’ whispers in the jungles of Lost, the lyrics are unimportant. They're there somewhere in the background, like faint electricity in a blissful sleep, but somehow the wordless whispers seem just as important as the most truthful admission.

“Avalanche,” which again buzzes with indecipherable lyrics, feels like a confession. There are hints here of Kanye West–like autotune and vocal effects, and much like West on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, you can feel there is something greater going. The song breaks down into a beautiful closing round of vocals and piano, seemingly drifting farther—or deeper—away.

But Hoyas isn’t a lesson in atmosphere, which is a trap many post-rock bands fall into. Instead, the EP feels more like a punctuation mark than a line, the dialogue of a single event instead of a drawn-out story. With that being said, the tones of this EP are vitally important: Hoyas is a headphones record, and the grandest effects of the synthesizers and electronics beats cannot be felt through a stereo.

“Inspir,” the grooviest track of the four, moves forward with hand claps and S. Carey singing “treetops” over and over again; soon you feel it’s much like Thom Yorke on Radiohead’s “Sit Down. Stand Up,” singing “the raindrops” over and over again—not because it bears any real meaning in the song but because it just sounds right. 

In the finale, “Marfa,” a track that would fit perfectly into the Ryan Gosling film Drive (perhaps the closing scene), there is a seeming sense of triumph and finality, which makes it the ideal track for an album closer.

The worst type of art is the kind that tries to make you feel something, whether it’s knee-deep in a dream or floating in a sea. But that’s exactly what makes Hoyas so great: S. Carey isn’t telling you to feel anything—but somehow you can’t help yourself.

Christopher Lehberger is a writer living in Pittsburgh. He likes music, literature and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He blogs at www.thezeitgeistofdominiquefrancon.blogspot.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @chrislehberger.

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