“All I cannot say I hope you know, all you cannot say I hope I can hear,” sings Karen Peris on “Look Out from Your Window,” the strong, circular, and somewhat quirky third track from the innocence mission’s latest album, sun on the square. These lines could be called emblematic for the album, and indeed the innocence mission’s career. In their own way, Karen and her husband and fellow guitarist, Don Peris, have spent years trying to voice the inexpressible. Since forming the innocence mission in 1985 with Mike Bitts, the dreamy, orchestral folk band has spent 10 LPs speaking to our collective memory and awe at life’s mysteries. Their songs are full of sensory imagery and deeply-felt instrumentation. It’s their unique way of approaching universal joys and sorrows that allows them to achieve a special emotional connection with their listeners, for whom the Pennsylvania-based trio is beyond a favorite band and more like a beloved companion. Such is their intensity, and the fragility of their sound and vision as spearheaded by Karen Peris’ heartbreaking, breathtaking voice. The group’s fans include Sufjan Stevens and Sam Beam (Iron & Wine), who have each covered innocence mission songs. According to Stevens, who talked to NPR about the group, “What I always come back to… is the small song that makes careful observations about everyday life. This is what makes the music by the innocence mission so moving and profound.”
With sun on the square, the group’s sound has grown more magnificent than ever. Without losing an iota of the intimacy of their past releases, the innocence mission has made what is possibly their most dynamic album to date. Expansive, lush arrangements on songs like “look out from your window,” “green bus,” and “buildings in flower” add intensity to the lyrics. According to Don Peris, “I love Karen’s beautiful, fingerpicked guitar parts and recording to them, adding a high, reverb-y electric sometimes, or another line of nylon string that would be a companion to hers.” His stunning guitar work on “light of winter” provides an initial landscape for Karen Peris’ voice that is deepened in color by Bitt’s upright bass and her thrummed piano and melodica. Another highlight track centered on change, absence, and starting over, “shadow of the pines,” begins with little more than muted piano and poignant singing, progressing in increments as bursts of accordion, viola, guitars, and field organ repeat the keys’ refrain, while Don’s drumming gives a huge, romantic swing reminiscent of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film.
“A most welcome return, from a truly treasured act.” –Gold Flake Music UK
“Sunday morning coffee-and-wistfulness, lovingly strummed acoustic guitars (augmented by the occasional organ line, sparingly applied upright bass, and light, flickering drums), rolling out time-tested chords with unwavering earnestness, revisiting the sweet, confessional early-70s folk of Joni Mitchell and the late-80s lilt of The Sundays and Cocteau Twins.” –Pitchfork
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Denison Witmer, Azure Ray, Hope Sandoval, Sun Kil Moon, Laura Veirs, Iron & Wine
Recommended Tracks: Track 1, “records from your room,” Track 2, “green bus,” Track 3, “look out from your window,” Track 5, “buildings in flower,” Track 7, “light of winter”
Label: Badman Recording Company
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