Album Review: Carey Clayton – Gradually, Suddenly

Gradually, Suddenly is the new album from LA-based indie folk artist Carey Clayton and it explores the emotional journey of being in a new place, rediscovering yourself and the relationships around you.

By Graeme Smith

With such personal subject matter, you’d expect the album to have an intimate, confessional feel and on that it delivers. Opening track Not Of Plastic feels like the inside of a mind in turmoil. Textured instrumentals come and go, rise and fall and it almost feels like two songs in one but for Carey’s smooth vocals tying the whole piece together. It’s a strong start and you can already tell you’re in for something a little different in Gradually, Suddenly.

Track two Underfoot has a similar soundscape but is anchored by a simple, repeating guitar melody. Subtle percussion and sweeping electronic synths join the mix and Carey’s electronically-enhanced vocals ramp up the sense of emotion. It all culminates in a dramatic climax which is an early highlight.

Thought of You is the focus-track of the album and it sets aside the big electronic sound for something cleaner and more acoustic. The lyrics are is defining feature, pouring out a tale of heartbreak. Carey’s smooth vocals are so compelling you can’t help but feel the hurt alongside him. It marks a sequence of more introverted tracks, including the moody Give It All Away, the lush Upstream and the melancholic Debris. The latter echoes the turmoil of Not of Plastic but runs deeper. Emotionally, it feels like the album’s low point.

It spills into the piano-led Correspondence. It’s rich in harmonies, echoing synths and after the first chorus a marching, muted drum beat comes in that gives the sense of moving forward. As things progress, as does the instrumental complexity and its layered finish is another album highlight. It feels like a turning point.

Indeed, the final few tracks have a lighter feel to them. How Does It Help is infused with a sense of a reluctance to let go of the past while having one eye on the future. Slowing Down is dreamy and speaks to the deeper importance of the little things that on the surface feel inconsequential. Finally, Everywhere I Go is a short and sweet coda to the album’s story. Its relaxed acoustic guitar melody feels like an anthesis to the trauma of that start of the album. It’s a beautiful way to end things.

Carey wrote Gradually, Suddenly during a dark period in his life and it’s wonderful that he’s managed to get something so meaningful out of it. We’re lucky that he’s poured so much of his soul into his music and I for one am a fan of his unique and authentic sound.

You can hear Gradually, Suddenly below.