The Innocence Mission have been around a while now, but Sun On The Square marks the Pennsylvania trio’s first LP for Bella Union. You can see why the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Iron And Wine list them among their favourite acts. The group’s mix of guitar, strings, ukelele and Karen Peris’ lovely voice has clearly had a strong influence on the work of both of those artists. The band stick to their guns on this album, but why change when you’ve got a good thing going?
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I have so much admiration for bands like the Innocence Mission. They just quietly do their thing, making beautiful singular music - the world may do other things perhaps taking no notice of them at all but they just carry on doing their thing. Like trees or birds do.
I remember them from 1989 and their singles 'Paper Dolls' and 'Wonder of Birds' which brought some much needed autumnal beauty to the radio waves. Looking back they were so much more a commercial proposition then. Time has passed and between then and now I've managed to pretty much miss eight albums so it comes as quite a surprise how good this record is. The first two tracks here are just superb. Brilliant, intimate folk songs led by Karen Peris remarkable voice. It's absolutely no surprise though to find out that Sufjan Stevens is a fan - these two tracks are as intimate and moving as anything on 'Carrie & Lowell. Flicking forward you should hear tracks like 'Buildings in Flower', it's distant and mysterious as if played two rooms away, the instrumentation gently rolls over itself, woody guitars, a touch of oboe, a soupcon of glockenspiel. Peris's voice may take a bit of getting used to but not more so than that of Joanna Newsome. It's squeaky but distinctive and tumbles over the songs. You should hear how the title track unfurls, all so delicately. The Innocence Mission are as close to nature as music gets. It often sounds like the band are part of the everyday natural world.
They've been going a long long time but like Low perhaps they keep their simplicity and, yes, innocence. They never overplay or over emote. This record will surely be loved by anyone who likes the batch of younger songwriters who seem to be whether accident by design in thrall to the Innocent Mission's intimate sound. I'm so glad Bella Union have released this and reminded me of the brilliance of this band.
9/10 Richard Customer review, 5th July 2018
If you are familiar with The Innocence Mission then you know what you are getting here. Gentle and comforting songs that will sooth a weary brain with a balm infused with Karen Peris' gorgeous singular voice. Some may find her vocal too childlike (check out the clip) but others will welcome it's innocent lilt. The instrumentation is a perfect fit too. Piano, viola, violin, accordian and pump organ help shift the gentle guitar and drumming into perfectly formed songs that with repeated listens will start to worm their way into your brain.
I always find that each Innocence Mission LP needs at least 5 spins to really hit home, and I've had this on repeat since it arrived and am being richly rewarded. Lovely clear vinyl pressing too. It would be really nice if Bella Union started a reissue of their back catalogue too. Music for all seasons.
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