The Innocence Mission

Glow

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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.

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