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A hushed work of chamber folk understatement, Hundred Acres is the third full-length release from Wisconsin singer, songwriter, and arranger S. Carey. Falling somewhere in between 2014's lofty Range of Light and its sparser follow-up EP, Supermoon, Hundred Acres makes a move to pare away some of the denser instrumentation prevalent on Carey's first two albums without abandoning the ensemble feel completely. Still known to many as the percussionist and keyboardist for Bon Iver, Carey's reliance on both instruments is greatly downplayed on this acoustic guitar-heavy offering. As with his previous releases, ruminations on nature's healing power and finding comfort in simplicity are central themes that continue to be explored, perhaps even more than before. Beginning with the relaxed, midtempo "Rose Petals," Carey sets a gentle and spacious tone that flows on until the end, interrupted here and there by minor dramatic flourishes and gentle diversions. There's poignancy and warmth in these paeans to family and rusticity, though sometimes their minimalist restraint gets in the way of their effectiveness. Carey's skills as a composer and arranger are one of his greatest assets, and without the added sophistication of his more orchestral leanings, many of these songs suffer from an affable but indistinct sameness. Still, there are definite high points like the lush and sunny "More I See," a rich life-affirming cut that brims with an earthy pop glow. The dreamy finale, "Meadow Song," is another standout with a sublime string arrangement more akin to his earlier albums. As a whole, Hundred Acres is a pleasing listen with a warm-hearted, pastoral feel, even if its nuances sometimes get lost in the cracks.
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