Album Review: Lia Ices, “Grown Unknown”

Lia Ices’ stunning new album opens with the Brooklyn artist’s principle strengths: a soft crush of piano; a light, swooping melody; and Ices’ delicate mezzo-soprano, calling from an emotional space beyond the letter of the lyrics: Oh you know I need / your mystic mind.

The song, called “Love Is Won”, proceeds to layer additional instrumentation gradually – another key feature on nearly all of Grown Unknown’s nine tracks. In this case, it’s the sparest of drum and bass, some pulsing organ, and a collection of harmonies overlaid by Ices herself.

Often echo-laden and cast against moments of dramatic silence, the vocal approach on Grown will likely remind of Feist and Bat for Lashes. Ices sets herself apart, however, with an adventurous taste in accompaniment (sleigh bells and finger snaps on “Little Marriage”), as well as a penchant for songs that build and search, sometimes reaching a new time signature altogether: The infectious title track opens in a militaristic 4/4 of handclaps before shifting to a stilted 6/8 chorus section, courtesy of a lone acoustic guitar.

A slight complaint concerns the close cropping of a couple of song endings: For whatever reason, lead single “Daphne” craps out so suddenly that it threatens to nullify the piece’s impressive progression (not to mention a killer cameo from Jagjaguwar franchise player Justin Vernon). But a minor issue in an otherwise intoxicating listen.

Available now on Jagjaguwar. Catch Lia Ices on tour this spring with The Cave Singers, including March 30 at Red Palace in Northeast DC.


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