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Album Review

The Innocence Mission fully realized their tremendous potential for the first time on Glow, which is only their third album after a decade together. They finally managed to strike the perfect balance between the little everyday themes of their lyrics and the sweeping cinematic atmospheres of their guitar reverb and keyboards, in part thanks to an increased reliance on acoustic guitars and pianos. The result is a thoroughly original pop gem. Glow evokes with amazing clarity the sights, sounds, feelings, and smells of quiet middle class lives; of curious children, late evening discussions in neighbor's kitchens, "taking blankets to the bay," "catching snow in our cupped hands," "going through yellow yards to the library lions." Lyricist/vocalist Karen Peris has a gift for choosing little snatches of imagery which add up to a gorgeously complete picture, like the dashes of paint in a Seraut or a Monet (the comparison to 19th century artists seems inevitable somehow, other critics have mentioned Jane Austin and Louisa May Alcott). Those fragmentary images are inflated with full emotional heft by the glowingly polished production. This time around, the band replaced its longtime producer, Larry Klein (Mr. Joni Mitchell) with an obviously gifted (relative) newcomer, Dennis Herring (Camper Van Beethoven). Herring shows a greater sensitivity to the band's songs, making the sound considerably more intimate. This was perhaps all the Innocence Mission needed to adequately distinguish its sound from their beloved influences (although the similarity to the Sundays' brand of mellow ambience is still a mite too close for comfort). Peris' distinctive, childlike warble is even more childish this time around, more restrained and less strident. With someone else's songs, that might seem grating or affected. But here it's simply another example of Herring's perfect tweaking and adjusting of the Innocence Mission's unique sensibility. Their songs hum and reverberate with sheer wonder at life's smallest pleasures, and even life's little frustrations. This group of quiet Catholics communicate unassuming spirituality and inexplicable hope without glossing over the negatives, and their giddy joy is contagious even when they're luxuriating in melancholy. That was particularly refreshing in the famously cynical world of mid-'90s alt-pop radio, and the band finally scored some national airplay with "Bright as Yellow" after a decade of glowing critical notices and disappointing sales.

Customer Reviews

The first album to start your collection

When I was maybe 13 years old the city I grew up in had an awesome college radio station. I remember hearing the song "The Umbrella" (from their self-titled album) and calling the station and asking them to play it again so I could record it on a cassette. I recorded it on a "single" cassette (5 minutes on each side of the tape) and played it over and over. Then a poor teenager and approaching the punk rock revolution, my fascination stopped there. In early 2002 I watched the movie "High Fidelity" and it caused me to reflect on my youth and how musically experimental I was as a youngster. I thought of bands I had sampled but never thoroughly explored and - Thank God - I thought of The Innocence Mission. A Google later and I was at their website, reviewing their discography. "Small Planes" had just come out, and though I really liked the song "Today", I decided to start with "Glow" after reading so many positive reviews. I can still remember the first time I played it. I felt like, "Am I the luckiest person in the world to have found this treasure?" and also "How did I live seven years without this album?!?!" I absolutely LOVE every song on this album, but I have to say that my favorite is "Brave". Other favorites are, of course, "Bright as Yellow", "Keeping Awake"... gosh, no EVERY song is really incredible. Were I to go on, I would list every song. They are all THAT good. There is something so fresh and cleansing about Karen's voice, and the music is so clean and beautiful. It makes you feel so good, and yet, you can also feel sad with it, too. Five years later and this album - as well as all of their other albums (though I'm not WILD about the first two) - continue to get the most play. The Innocence Mission is truly the greatest - and sadly most "slept on" - band in the world. If you purchase this album today, it will be the best thing you will do today, and you'll never forget the magic you'll feel listening to this heavenly music.

Sounds of Color and Heaven

There are few words in our English language that can adequately describe the melding of pure aural beauty when listening to this or any album by this group. The voice of Karen Peris is a gift from God for sure, and her husbands guitar playing (strings) backs up her voice equally. Songs such as Glow, Bright as Yellow are lovely and haunting. I recommend the album Umbrella as a work particularly close to my heart. I have everything they have ever done and love all of their music. I listen to these songs often, repeatedly, and still love them after more than 10 years. My husband heard this years ago and Glow was one of the first albums he put on his new iPod. Glow is an absolute classic. True to its time and full of quality.

Still a favorite

I first heard of Innocence Mission when I was working for an ambulance company in a small town in Southern California. My partner and I sat on the roof of our ambulance and watched them play a free concert at Starbucks and listened in amazement as they performed the glow album in its entirety. 11 years later, the CD is still one of my favorites.

Biography

Formed: 1982 in Lancaster, PA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Centered around the husband-and-wife songwriting team of Don Peris (vocals, guitar) and Karen Peris (vocals, guitar, piano), Lancaster, PA natives the Innocence Mission crafted a tasteful, politically correct brand of collegiate folk-pop similar to Sarah McLachlan or 10,000 Maniacs (in fact, the Perises appeared on Natalie Merchant's 1998 album Ophelia). With a rhythm section composed of bassist Mike Bitts and drummer Steve Brown, the Innocence Mission released their eponymous debut album in 1989;...
Full Bio