If there is a story in contemporary music that deserves to be heard, that is the one of Don and Karen Peris. They met in high school, while setting a up a musical for the school and they are, to this day, married and writing and playing music together as The Innocence Mission. After years and years of listening to their delicately ‘human’ music, their wintry soundscapes, their images of longing and solitary rowing on boats, one cannot but conjure an image of hope and safety.
To be clear, The Innocence Mission’s music is not blatantly, or absent-mindedly, reassuring but is ‘full of absence’ of an inner search in the observable world for signs and answers. In this, they are kin to Sufjan Stevens meanderings into an inquisitive, restless Christianity; in terms of style and spirit, Kozelek can be considered their ‘black sheep’ counterpart.
Sun On The Square is stylistically very similar to their previous output, Hello I Feel The Same. Maybe the stand-out difference is the presence of their children, Anna and Drew, on viola and cello, that add some breadth to the gracious arrangements by Don and long-time collaborator Mike Bitts (on double bass), as in the title track.
Those who know Karen Peris know how spellbinding her voice is – it is not overstated to say that it is often hard to fight back tears while listening to her songs. Songwriting-wise, Karen has definitely found an enviable spot, from which you can pull out inspired compositions with incredible consistency. As opposed to Hello I Feel The Same, it sounds like the songs in Sun On The Square have a subtler appeal, often laid out within the folds of arrangements (‘Light Of Winter’), or of the development of lyrics (‘Green Bus’). There are less sudden blooms (beautiful ‘Shadow In The Pines’ is an obvious exception, reminding of ‘Washington Field Trip’ in the previous record), and in this respect it is probably a less emotional and a more contemplative album. All in all, one cannot but stand in awe at the unfolding of this family saga, punctuated by a series of incredible albums – Sun on the Square is only the latest chapter.
Words: Lorenzo Righetto