If I could describe Lia Ices in one word, it would be “organic”. Her voice possesses a subtlety that easily blends with the instrumentation yet, at certain points, explodes in bursts of energy. Her second album, Grown Unknown released this week, immediately grabbing my attention because Justin Vernon tweeted about his involvement on the song “Daphne”. Enough said. I had to listen immediately.
I played “Daphne” once, twice, then 25 repeat button clicks later, I needed to hear the rest of the album, praying that it would live up to the hauntingly addicting duet. And oh boy did it…
Almost exactly halfway through “Daphne” there’s a dynamic shift of the song’s vitality I didn’t realize I loved so much until I saw it repeated throughout the album. Each song weaves through the harsh twists and turns of intense piano and smooth violin, all held together by her crystal clear voice.
The album begins with “Love Is Won” a very simple, slow song comprised primarily of her carefully layered voice and piano. But wait! Then, seamlessly, the drums and electric guitar kick in, rounding it out and lacing it with ghostly “OooOooo’s”; it’s pretty great. Then later, on the track “After Is Always Before,” the same “OooOooo’s” act as a bedding that drives the space and flow where the tempo changes like the tide.
The Brooklynite reminds me a lot of the other alternative, folksy voices that are birthed in the hipstery depths of the Manhattan suburb: Sufjan Stevens, St. Vincent, Grizzly Bear and The Dirty Projectors, to name a few. Careful, though; listen to her now before the music supervisors working on the Twilight Saga get a hold of her. It would be nice to see her in concert without 400 vampire-clad preteens. Sigh.
Overall, this album is a great way to musically hurdle into 2011. But let this be a warning to you: When you listen to Grown Unknown, and Ices’ avant-garde, folk awesomeness permeates your brain, making you feel happy, sad, warm and cold all at the same time, curling up in a ball by a fire will be in the forefront of your mind, and being productive will be a faint afterthought floating to the moon. So, if you have a lot of work to do, like I did, wait until you get home to listen.