Karen Peris is often mentioned in the same breath as Natalie Merchant and the Sundays, but she has so far proven herself a more consistent and striking songwriter than either of those admirable artists. Birds has the unenviable task of living up to Glow, the nearly perfect prior release from the Innocence Mission. And if it doesn't quite match that work stride for stride, it offers plenty of its own pleasures. 'July', maybe the most beautiful recording of the year, is made all the more heartbreaking when you read of the primary songwriting couple's recent struggles to conceive a child. Thankfully, they did. The John Denver cover ('Follow Me') is another highlight; a song that easily could have been crafted by Peris herself. Contrary to other reviews posted here, there IS percussion on Birds (as in 'Snow'), but certainly less than on previous efforts. Most importantly, Peris' lyrical ambitions have not flagged. Her fractured imagery is some of the best going in popular music. If you're a newcomer to the band, I think Glow still serves as the best introduction. But if you're simply wondering if the latest holds up, fear not. It does.