The Innocence Mission’s ‘See You Tomorrow’ is an affront to the division politicians and news agencies seek to incite within us, a head-shakingly beautiful testament to the fears and dreams that live within us all, no matter our skin colour, our birthplace or our gender. On their 11th and perhaps strongest record yet, Pennsylvania husband-and-wife duo, Karen & Don Peris thrust an outstretched hand through your speaker, inviting you to hold it and share in its warmth, to acknowledge the likeness of its’ skin and crevices, to acknowledge that at the root of it all we’re just humans striving and surviving every day.
Sitting on her piano in the dining room of her family home, Karen created songs for people of all walks of life, mothers desiring to shelter their children from the evils of the world all the while knowing they can’t, people of a quiet nature who are often misunderstood or labelled unfairly, people suffering with the scourge of loneliness, people who more than anything want to be loved.
“As time goes on, I suppose we keep looking more toward connectedness, and feeling more gratitude though also more challenge about life and wanting to find a language to define it somehow and wondering how others experience it,” says Karen. “The thought that these are universal concerns makes me feel more drawn to write songs, to join in a conversation, even though the conversation itself is sometimes about being at a loss for words.”
Words are inadequate when it comes to explaining the innumerable ranges of human emotions and experiences. Peris doesn’t try to steal the wonder which that inspires and in turn that wisdom makes her lyricism especially relatable. “Don’t feel we are different / when these things will make us cry / though we don’t know how to say why”, Karen sings on the awestriking ‘We Don’t Know How to Say Why’. Sufjan Stevens has previously praised the economy of Karen’s words and ‘See You Tomorrow’ is littered with phrases – “And don’t I know it”, “this day is going”, “see you tomorrow” – that manage to be simple, ambiguous and incredibly meaningful at the same time.
Peris’ words are enclosed within meandering, bolstering piano keys or gentle plucks of the guitar. The tracks are brittle, like straw houses threatened by gale force winds. They’re all undeniably distinct though, with time you’ll greet the opening notes with an exhale of recognition, the kind of sound that escapes when a band you’re watching start playing the song you’ve been waiting for all night.
In this moment of popularism and the emboldening of the far right, we have to hold on against our better instincts, we have to seek out others fighting against the tide, we have to make people see that the late MP Jo Cox was right when she said, “there’s more that unites than divides us”. ‘See You Tomorrow’ is a monument to the universality of human experience. Kneel at its altar.