Thursday, January 17, 2008

things that seep into my soul...

Perhaps you have noticed some subtle (and not-so-subtle) references here to a little band by the name of The Innocence Mission over the past six months or so. Truth be told, I think I have developed a bit of a crush. Ok, so It’s more than a crush… I think I’m in love. Not that this should surprise anyone, as I tend to do this sort of thing. It was not exactly love-at-first-sight, more like a slow, steady exposure that grew into a deep affection, much to my surprise.

I gained familiarity with The Innocence Mission in college, primarily the song Bright as Yellow, which was featured on the Empire Records soundtrack. Their name was thrown around in the same conversations as The Sundays, Over the Rhine and Sixpence None the Richer, but I was never fully introduced to them, nor did I pursue a proper introduction. They existed merely as a band that would probably be nice to know, if the opportunity should present itself.

Flash forward seven or so years, and I am living in Hillcrest with quite an impressively diverse music collection (due, in part, to two years of working at a used CD store). I also had quite an impressively diverse junk collection, due to my love of yard sales. It was at one of these yard sales that I stumbled upon The Innocence Mission’s Glow (1995) album, which was the disc containing Bright as Yellow, in exchange for a mere one dollar bill. I took it home to my cozy little Hillcrest house, placed it gently in the CD player, sat back on the vintage couch and listened. Eh… at least it was only a buck.

The music was pretty, but it just didn’t grab me. I tried it in the car, accompanying my daily commute, but still, there was no attraction. It was ok, we could be cordial friends, but that was as far as the relationship would go. About every year or so I would take Glow out of the CD drawer and give it another listen through, only to be reminded that we were just friends. I would kindly return it to it’s home in the “I” section, and promise to write… knowing that my intentions were false.

This summer, however, something magical happened to turn my heart. I still don’t know where it came from but, while giving Glow it’s yearly listen-through, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of joy. The music made me happy, and the lyrics made me positively giddy. I really liked being around this band. Blog posts began alluding to the burgeoning relationship. Something in my heart had been sparked.

While on a trip out to Portland to visit a friend, we ventured into a used music store, and I boldly took the next step toward better acquainting myself with Innocence Mission. Wandering over to the “I” section, I filtered through my options and settled my fingers upon worn-out copies of The Innocence Mission (1989) and Umbrella (1991). With eager anticipation, I purchased these discs and added them to my luggage, mementos to look forward to unveiling when I returned home.

Alas, I felt I had been deceived. Perhaps I had misunderstood my newfound attraction to Glow, misinterpreted my sudden enjoyment of the album as a deep attraction to the band. These new discs did not pique my interest, and I feared that perhaps I had already been a tease and led the band into thinking a relationship was forming when, in fact, I was not really all that interested. I looked back over my blog posts, I gave Glow another listen, and I realized I had to see if I could make this work.

Over the next several weeks, I listened to both The Innocence Mission and Umbrella on constant rotation in my car and in my home. I allowed the music to seep in until I found myself looking forward in anticipation to the opening sounds of the next track, or a certain refrain, or a line that had caught my ear. The next step was to sit down with the lyrics, and take in all that the pretty melodies were saying, which with Innocence Mission can be intense. After spending considerable time with the albums, I admitted that there was still something there, drawing my heart to this band.

Though I still do not own the complete discography, I have since purchased Birds of My Neighborhood (1999), Befriended (2004) and We Walked in Song (2007). Having passed many hours with the band, becoming intimately acquainted with their rhythms and rhymes, my love for these three albums emerged without much hesitation or coaxing. It was now a natural and enduring attraction. I look forward to exploring more recordings, and listening to more of the words flowing from their souls. Most recently, the story of Every Hour Here has broken through the confines of its melodic structure and released itself to dance around my head. I welcome the intrusion, and invite the other songs to do the same.

Every Hour Here
We ride our bikes around the circle in the cemetery, weaving.
I wave up to You on the Cross.
Am I to come upon You suddenly like this forever?
Happy, relieved that You are here and I can see You, I can feel you?

You are like the ticket-half I find inside the pocket of my old lead-raking coat.
There all the time, all the while, forgotten.
I so often seem to leave You in churches and other islands.
And on my beads where I can see You, I can feel You.

I take the ticket-half and put it on the table, saying,
This is God and He's here through my comings and my goings.
But I walk past the ticket-half,
I walk past the ticket-half.
I walk past the ticket-half
just as I've walked past the Cross on our wall.

Our self-importance grows so dazzling we don't see You.
But Gentle Jesus, aren't You always, aren't You every hour here?


Janna Y. Barber said...

Only know 2 songs, i think: "Christ is my hope" and can't recall the other right now. I do like them both. Have you heard "Frozen Charlotte" from Natalie Merchant's Ophelia? Very nice. Of course, that's one of my favorite albums.

jeanetta said...

i love empire records. i have a copy somewhere from way back when we only had vhs. lol. awesome music too.

Gordon Family said...

It was fun running into Jack Black. I kind of felt sorry for him because people started following him around the store and the Target employees were talking about him on thier walki-talkies.