The Innocence Mission: My Room in the Trees

More mood music, less Pure Moods, please.

The Innocence Mission

My Room in the Trees

Label: Badman
US Release Date: 2010-07-13
UK Release Date: 2010-07-13

When you pick up an album from a band with a name like the Innocence Mission, you pretty much know you're not getting heavy metal. Yep, this Pennsylvania quartet (featuring husband and wife songwriting team Karen and Don Peris) has been chugging along, mostly under the radar, since the late '80s, sticking faithfully to their established blend of smooth, dreamy, inoffensive guitar pop and the occasionally pseudo/occasionally blatant Christian lyrics.

The Innocence Mission's ninth full-length album, My Room in the Trees, is an acoustic affair, from the fingerpicked guitars to the double-bass to the brushed drums. It's quiet, reflective music, perfect for rainy day cooking or reclining in a bay window on a Sunday afternoon with a book. (Starbucks, you should be jumping on this!) Remember when I mentioned the word "inoffensive"? Keep that in mind.

My Room's quiet acoustic template is at first intoxicating. The album opens with "Rain (Setting Out in the Leaf Boat)", a lullaby as delicate as the title suggests, unfolding with simple guitar strums and Peris' vocal yawns before strings appear, presenting a haunting melodic refrain. By the time Peris has begun echoing the melody by humming along with it, you'll be swept away in the leaf boat, too.

"The Happy Mondays" has a melody so lilting and familiar, it's hard not to keep wondering where they accidentally stole it. Peris' instrumental backing is so tasteful and well-placed, every nuance has maximum impact, from the charmingly poor drumming to the timid piano flourishes. In the words department, it's hard to imagine finding lyrics more "innocent" than: "The happy Mondays, we blow down alleyways / In our raincoats, in afternoons / The imaginary dogs beside us are old friends / They will speak to you." Peris channels the reflections of a Pennsylvania grade school student, and she nails it with a childlike delivery that keeps the gooeyness in check.

So far, so good. But things start to go slightly downsteam with the third track, "God Is Love". It has nothing to do with the Christian lyrical themes -- if anything, Peris' religious outlook is refreshing in the often nihilistic view of indie music -- but it does have something to do with the fact that the lyrics are boring: "God is love, and love will never fail me," sings Peris in the song's chorus. That's pretty much the gist of it. And that's one of the problems of Christian pop music -- coming up with a unique and/or interesting way to repeat the same message over and over again.

Peris' voice still sounds like a curious combination of Björk and Natalie Merchant, and the success of these sparsely arranged songs often rests on her unassuming shoulders. Unfortunately, she's never quite as compelling during the album's second half as she is during those early moments. As the album coos along, the arrangements get more and more samey, and instead of eliciting a feeling of wanting to give yourself a hug, the sound embraces the nagging desires of sleep. My advice: don't listen to the album while driving.

More mood music, less Pure Moods, please.

This is why iTunes exists, I guess. Pull out that gift card and purchase the first two tracks. The rest? Ahh, save 'em for a rainy day.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.