Band of the Day

2011.10.17

Lia Ices

Lush folk rock with beautifully bendable vocals
Don't hide in your heart, on your side, in your mind, don't sigh and defy what would stay, what should thrive.
lyrics from Grown Unknown

From new music hotbed Brooklyn, New York comes avant-folk singer Lia Ices. A natural artist who began playing piano at the age of five, Ices discovered her talent for writing original music while studying theater at New York University. By 2008 she had released her debut LP Necima on Rare Book Room Records. After the success of Necima, she was picked up by Jagjaguar records, who released her follow-up LP Grown Unknown in early 2011. The album fared considerably well and was supported by a world tour that included an appearance at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Much like fellow Brooklyn residents Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens and Beirut, songstress Lia Ices has a knack for dramatic orchestral pop. Ices began playing piano at age 5, but didn't begin writing songs until attending the Tisch School of the Arts Experimental Theater Wing at N.Y.U. As you'd expect from an experimental theater kid, Ices’ music does have some avant garde touches, though it's not nearly as artsy and out there as she gets pegged for. Her brand of piano-based magic falls nicely between Grizzly Bear and Regina Spektor, tasteful effects flourishes and complex orchestration anchored by 4-minute pop panache. Lia Ices released her debut Necima in 2008, and has upped the ante considerably with her 2011 release Grown Unknown, a lush and beautiful work. Grown Unknown kicks things off with “Love is Won,” a delicate piano ballad that grows and unfolds gorgeously, layering on guitar and organs in a bath of 70s folk-rock. “Daphne” features folk man-of-the-hour Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and borrows his band's knack for big dramatic statements. Beginning with quietly picked acoustic guitar and Ices' gorgeously bendable vocals, the track sounds mythical and organic. In its second half, Vernon lends his huge falsetto and Ices ditches her acoustic for pounding piano chords and bursts of electric guitar. Ices gives her vocals a workout on “After Is Always Before;” her voice flits around harp and marching band drums like a not-so-mousey Joanna Newsom. “Bag of Wind” dials it back to 70s folk-rock territory, adding layers of voluptuous, reverb enhanced backing vocals. In a field crowded with excellent albums, Grown Unknown stands out as enchantingly original.