Tag Archives: The Innocence Mission

July 6, 2017 — “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (featuring Karen Peris)

Lost Horizons

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons (2017, from the forthcoming album Ojal√°).

Lost Horizons is a dream-pop duo formed by Simon Raymonde out of Cocteau Twins and Richard Thomas out of Dif Juz. They have a stable full of guest vocalists including Sharon Van Etten, Marissa Nadler, Tim Smith out of Midlake, Leila Moss out of The Duke Spirit, and Hazel Wilde out of Lanterns on The Lake. Most thrilling, though, is that they also have the inimitable Karen Peris out of The Innocence Mission on one track. Tonight’s track.

Simon Raymonde needs no introduction here.

Richard Thomas was the drummer in Dif Juz, who was also on 4AD records back in the glorious heyday of that label in the mid-1980s. Actually, of the three Dif Juz albums, only the last of them was on 4AD. That record —Extractions
was produced by Robin Guthrie out of the Cocteaus and featured guest vocals by Liz Fraser out of the Cocteaus. Dif Juz was a strange sort of math-y dream-pop/post-punk band that I was never into despite my obsession with the incarnation of 4AD Records that existed at that time.

The Cocteaus disbanded in an inglorious blaze back in 1997. That year, Raymonde put out a solo record that nobody even noticed. He and Guthrie had already started the Bella Union record label, which was meant as a platform for the Cocteaus to self-release their stuff after their fall-out with 4AD boss Ivo Watts-Russell. Unfortunately, by the time they got out from under their contract with 4AD, the band was starting to rot from the inside anyway. So it was all over for the Cocteaus.

Raymonde and Guthrie ran the label together for a while, but now it’s entirely run by Raymonde. While he had his hands in a lot of projects, he pretty much stayed out of the business of writing music until he formed Snowbird in 2014. The one record that band put out was my #13 album of 2014.

Just today, I learned about the Lost Horizons project, and I got very excited when I saw that Karen Peris appears on tonight’s track. It’s a poorly kept secret that I really, really like the Innocence Mission. At least everything from 1989 to 2003. The six records during that time are magnificent. To be fair, I’ve never paid much attention to the three albums that came after that. Glow (1995) is my favourite record of theirs, and it’s really solid from start to finish. My favourite song of theirs, though, is “The Lakes of Canada”, which I’ve written about here. And as a digression that’s well worth your time, Sufjan Stevens famously did a sensational cover of that song, practically making it his own. See that here. Coincidentally, Stephanie Dosen out of the aforementioned Snowbird has also done a cover of “The Lakes of Canada” on her solo record, giving it a more spooky than sad tone here.

Anyway, all of that digression was to the point that Karen Peris is an amazing songwriter and vocalist. That’s on full display here. This is that song:
“The Places We’ve Been” by Lost Horizons

As terrific as the music is, this is all about Karen Peris. Her breathy, high-register vocals, which are small and big at the same time, soar above everything else. And of course this should come as no surprise, but I absolutely love the miles of delay they put on her vocals at the end of each chorus.

As far as I know, this is the only song that’s been released in advance of the album. I’ve seen a track listing, but no details about who sings on which tracks. At any rate, we’ll be very much looking forward to the release of Ojal√° on November 3 via Bella Union. You can pre-order digital copies here. No word yet on pre-sale of physical copies.

January 4 — “The Lakes of Canada” by The Innocence Mission

If you listen to just one song today, make it “The Lakes of Canada” by The Innocence Mission (1999, from the album Birds of My Neighborhood)

After the success of their 1995 album Glow, it took the Innocence Mission four years to release their next album. Then again, there was also a four year gap between Umbrella (1991)and Glow. I guess their label was extraordinarily patient with them.

Birds of My Neighborhood is not nearly as college-radio friendly as their three previous records, and it has a very different feel to it. It’s much more folk than rock. Apart from that, it’s heavier, emotionally. They also parted ways with their drummer and didn’t bother to replace him for this record. As a result, only one song on the album has drums, and those are pretty sparse. You don’t really notice the absence of drums, though.

This song is Karen Peris at her finest. Wonderfully written. Simple and complex at the same time. I love that it’s acoustic. I love the doubled vocals in the chorus. It’s really peaceful, and yet it evokes some sadness at the same time.

I don’t know whether “rowing on the lakes of Canada” is supposed to represent some spiritual journey. I don’t know if she’s rowing to get away from the “laughing man”, who told her that “it” couldn’t be done. Whatever “it” is. I don’t know if it’s supposed to represent some sort of escape from the real world. I don’t know if it’s supposed to represent anything at all.

Sufjan Stevens, who famously covered this song in breathtaking fashion, had a lot to say about the song.

(The) Lakes of Canada’ creates an environment both terrifying and familiar using sensory language: incandescent bulbs and rowboats are made palpable by careful rhythms, unobtrusive rhyme schemes, and specificity of language. What is so remarkable about Karen Peris’ lyrics are the economy of words, concrete nouns – fish, flashlight, laughing man – which come to life with melodies that dance around the scale like sea creatures. Panic and joy, a terrible sense of awe, the dark indentations of memory all come together at once, accompanied by the joyful strum of an acoustic guitar. This is a song in which everyday objects begin to have tremendous meaning.

Unobtrusive rhyme schemes? Sea creatures? Okay.

After Sufjan’s cover (in 2007) gave this song more attention than it had ever gotten on its own, thousands of young girls (mostly girls, anyway) posted to youtube their own covers of the song. On guitar, on banjo, on ukelele. You name it. Most of these girls can neither sing nor play their instrument. I’ve watched a lot of them. I mean A LOT of them. They’re mostly painfully bad.

Here’s one cover that I think is quite good. And it showed up before Sufjan made it famous.

For a few years, this album was out of print. Thankfully, Mark Kozelek’s label, Badman Records, has remastered and reissued this album, which you can buy here.

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