Free and legal MP3: The Innocence Mission (gorgeous, soul-stirring)

Pretty much all of their work is exquisitely crafted and touching; some of it, like this new single, is soul-stirringly gorgeous.

“On Your Side” – The Innocence Mission

The trio of Karen Peris, Don Peris, and Mike Bitts have been doing their beautiful and timeless thing, as The Innocence Mission, out there in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, since 1989. Pretty much all of their work is exquisitely crafted and touching; some of it, like this new single, is soul-stirringly gorgeous. Karen sings with a slurry, fragile power that augments the melancholy tones baked into the band’s melodies and chord changes. In her masterful hands, even a sprightly, upturned melody, such as when she here sings, “Some days we are not sure where we’re going” (0:21), can bring tears to the eyes from the poignant power of it all.

And, to be sure, this song draws on a deep well of feeling, rooted in the potency of life-long love, including love that extends beyond the grave. The song’s surface-level simplicity is its grace, that up-skipping, recurring melody its super power. Note too how intimate the recording sounds—husband and wife Karen and Don record the band in their house—yet also how well built and nimbly crafted. With care and vision and talent (and technology), The Innocence Mission manage to do this impossible thing: they make the internet seem peaceful, helpful, and generally Okay.

“On Your Side” is a song from the band’s eleventh album, See You Tomorrow, which was released last week. Listen to the whole thing and buy it via Bandcamp, where it is available digitally, on CD, and (most fittingly, to my ears) on vinyl. This is the fourth time the band has been featured here on Fingertips, dating all the way back to November 2003. MP3 via KEXP.

Free and legal MP3: Night Panther (synth pop confection, and yet w/ substance)

A giddy, glittery synth-pop trifle with yet a deeper purpose and conviction.

Night Panther

“All For Love” – Night Panther

One of music’s many great mysteries is how, sometimes, under the right (mysterious) circumstances, a seemingly light-as-air pop confection can acquire the weight and power of something more significant, simply by doing what it does. And while I know that not everyone listening will hear it the same way, one of my founding principles hat Fingertips is that quality is not necessarily as subjective as is commonly assumed; continual effort has been made here, against all apparent odds, to explore how this might be.

So where exactly within this giddy, glittery synth-pop trifle am I sensing a deeper purpose and conviction? Let’s start with the introduction, which aligns with any number of classic grooves by shrewdly adding elements as it develops; I especially like the wooden-block-like sound that joins in at 0:16 and the psychedelic-organ-like tone that blossoms at 0:24. And then, the song’s backbone: a 15-note descending run that starts for the first time at 0:48. Listen with half an ear and it’s a standard-seeming downward melody; pay closer attention and it traces a marvelous, run-on, deviant scale. Likewise front man Farzad Houshiarnejad can be heard as an airy tenor belting out a bubble-gummy tune or, upon closer inspection, a canny and creative singer. And then maybe best of all, check out the metamorphosis that begins at 2:56, when the vocals fade into a stuttering, minimalist-style loop, which leads to a bass-and-drum interchange around 3:10, which (anyone see this coming?) opens into a kick-ass, old-fashioned guitar solo. As the vocals rejoin, it feels as if genre and time-frame have evaporated, and maybe that’s it, maybe it’s how this innocent-seeming song morphs from the particular to the nearly universal that allows it to pack its unexpected punch. I like it, in any case.

Night Panther is a trio based in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. “All For Love” is single the band released a bit earlier this month via SoundCloud. You can download it the usual way, via the song’s title above, or at the SoundCloud page, where you can also talk directly to the band, if you are so moved. This appears to be the band’s fourth single; no longer releases have yet been issued.

photo credit: Kelly Kurteson

Free and legal MP3: The Innocence Mission (lovely, pure, acoustic toe-tapper)

Innocence Mission

“God is Love” – The Innocence Mission

Karen Peris, long-time front woman for the Innocence Mission, has an idiosyncratic purr of a voice, part velvet part parchment; it alternately soothes and cracks, sometimes doing both at once. She has an unplaceable accent and likes to sing of simple things out there from her Lancaster County abode, comfy in the 20-plus-years’ presence of her bandmate husband Don and his bandmate childhood friend Mike Bitts. The trio’s new album, My Room in the Trees, their ninth, is full of the outdoors, of weather and leaves and water and quiet neighborhoods. It is lovely, and this is one of the lovely songs on it, but with more of a toe-tapping beat than most of the others, with jazz-flecked acoustic guitar chords, gentle percussion, and what sounds like a hushed horn or woodwind but is actually a combination of pump organ, chromatic harmonica, and melodica, all played by Karen.

And given our fractious age, with tolerance and intolerance locked in misery on the cultural dance floor, I feel a need to comment briefly on the subject matter. Despite the title’s centrality to the lyrics, this is not an overtly religious song; its spiritual message in fact is so deeply ecumenical as to unify all but the most strident fundamentalists fuming away on the two extreme sides of the God-existence argument. I’ve seen one online review take the song to task for its lyrical simplicity, a criticism that never fails to amuse me. Ninety percent of all songs have simple lyrics. That’s why they’re songs. They rise or fall on the depth of the music, which can also appear simple in many cases. This song’s simplicity is part of its allure; purity has a place in our ears and hearts. Not a lot of indie music explores this place; I give these guys a lot of credit for making it look, and sound, as easy and comfortable as a conversation with old friends.

Which these guys, recording together since 1989, surely are. My Room in the Trees was released last week on Badman Recording Co.