Written by Maria Arroyo
The Innocence Mission is a folk and singer/songwriter duo based out of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The folk pair is made up of multi-instrumentalist couple, Karen and Don Peris. Their new full-length album, See You Tomorrow, drops January 17.
The primary vocalist, Karen, wrote all but one of the songs and plays everything from the piano and guitar to the accordion and organ. Her partner, Don, makes a few vocal appearances on the album, but mainly contributes to the percussive instruments and guitar. One of the original members, Mike Bitts, also helped bring this album alive with his upright bass playing on four of the songs for See You Tomorrow.
The album opens with the track “At Lake Maureen.” Right off the bat, you hear how in sync these two are in regards to the vocals and instrumentation. A rhythmic classical guitar starts the song off, which is followed up by an angelic piano part. Karen brings her listeners in with her ethereal tone and timbre in her voice and with the emotional conviction in her lyrics. There is so much emotion in every musical moment which kept me captivated from beginning to end.
“I Would Be There” and “St. Francis and the Future” keep the same balance between the classical guitar and piano. Her vocals in “I Would Be There” were not as crisp as in “At Lake Maureen”, so making out some of the lyrics proved to be slightly difficult. I realize this could be a lot of things: how the song was mixed, her vocal style in general, an artistic choice maybe?
“John As Well” had a more ambient and haunting approach that made the song feel bigger and more spacious than the others, which was a neat change of sound for these two. “Movie” had a stronger piano presence than the first two, which is always a bonus in my book. This song, in particular, told such an amazing story in a different way that was complemented with the use of suspension throughout the instrumentation while contrasting the percussive component with her softer vocals. We also hear Don as the lead vocalist in “Mary Margaret In Mid-Air” which added some more color and depth to the album.
“On Your Side” was the first single released from the album, and for good reason! There was a lot more percussive playing, along with some variation in how she sang the line “I’m always on your side…” These two things alone added so much more character and rawness to the album which kept it from feeling one dimensional. I think as a whole, both musicians do such an incredible job in slowly introducing new musical ideas so they are not swaying too far from their sound, but realizing that taking those risks keep their album a well-rounded one for listeners.
“Stars that Fall Away from Us” and “The Brothers Williams Said” kept things intriguing by switching the playing style and vocal performance. I felt more connected with the lyrics, which made me love their sound even more. Lyrics like “The kindness in your face does not go unrecognized…” felt like something I hadn’t heard before, which is immensely hard to find nowadays.
“The Brothers Williams Said” became another favorite for me, which made me wish it had been closer to the beginning of the album so I could have enjoyed it sooner! There was a lot more buildup in dynamics that had not made its way to the other songs. There was also a nice use of the tambourine that showed their continuous attention to detail to keep things exciting because it’s those little things that will continue to set them apart from other artists in their genre. “This Boat” introduced some electric syncopated rhythm guitar and horns, which added to the continuous buildup that this song already had.
Bringing this album to a close is “We Don’t Know How to Say Why.” This song took the cake for favorite track because of how much they amped up their use of dynamics, their familiar motifs within their unique sound, and the impact behind the lyrics and vocals.
The Innocence Mission knows what they’re doing and it shows in this album release. There was so much to listen for and admire, which makes them stand out from other artists inside and outside of their genre. The only thing I would have changed was the register in which she chose to sing. What I mean is that about 98% of the time, she was using her head voice. In some of those more intimate and softer points of the song, it makes complete sense to use head voice, but in others where the dynamics and tension were increasing, she should have tried some sort of mixed sound. This would have added a beefier sound to her vocals and made them even more dynamic. The sound that she has is phenomenal, but I feel that she can push herself to explore all of her untapped potential behind her voice.
See You Tomorrow hit all of my check-boxes so keep it up because you are making the city of Lancaster so proud!