Lia Ices, expect big things from the Brooklyn songstress

It isn’t difficult to picture Brooklyn singer-songwriter, Lia Ices, as the next big female indie superstar. Lia Ices has just been granted probably the finest accolade in music, she is the first One To Watch from us at Culture and Life… I know she may as well give up now, it doesn’t get much better than this feeling right now!

With the same striking theatrical presence as Florence Welch and a knack for the kind of complex song structures that combine traditional folk, jazz, piano-pounding soul and Seventies rock with contemporary production technique, Ices is just plain and simply, releasing great music on one of the planet’s coolest record labels – Jagjaguwar.

If you like Regina Spektor, Feist, Glasser etc. this is for you. For those that like music that transcends situations and takes you to another universe – Lia Ices is definitely for you.

New album,Grown Unknown’, is a gentle, low-key record, more suited to smaller, intimate surroundings than the kind of concert halls favoured these days by some of her contemporaries. Down-tempo but never downbeat, it’s quiet, but confidently so. Like Ices’ 2008 debut release ‘Necima’, ‘Grown Unknown’ is produced by Rare Book Room’s Nicolas Vernhes.

Lia Ices - Grown Unknown

These are songs of love and loss, myths and magic, where dreams and nightmares collide. It is also a masterclass in restraint; the sparse instrumentation and exquisitely dry production from Vernhes draws attention to the spaces between the sounds, whereas other singers might grab the opportunity to indulge in histrionics, Ices instead opts to breathe life into these sketches with airy sighs and half-whispered vocals, wringing maximum emotion from her songs whilst barely even raising her voice.

Lia Ices

Ices isn’t the only focal point here, however, and ‘Grown Unknown’s’ arrangements are just as captivating as the vocals. Painting from a fairly limited palette, these songs expand and evolve, tracking the shifts in Ices’ voice and often ending up sounding completely different by the time they’ve run their course. Sometimes these changes are subtle: ‘Little Marriage’ starts off with a droning organ and a brittle percussive loop of bells and finger-clicks, but gradually layers in some acoustic guitar and xylophone, and when fluttering strings and woodwinds bloom from frosty beginnings on pulsing closer ‘New Myth’ they do so with the graceful beauty of a flower blooming in the sunlight. On other occasions the turns are sharper, like ‘After Is Always Before’, where Ices voice is surrounded by little other than a hazy guitar shimmer until suddenly waltz-time drums, harpsichord and a choir of swooping multi-tracked Ices comes crashing in.

Lia Ices

The continuing relationship between Ices and producer Vernhes is clearly a fruitful one. Having previously worked with the likes of Deerhunter, Black Dice and Animal Collective, Vernhes is adept at helping Ices realise her more avant-garde visions; the minimal handclap rhythm that drives the title track, for example, could almost be mistaken for a Timbaland beat. But the album’s highlights are the moments informed by classic rock and pop; ‘Love Is Won’ combines Carole King piano-balladry with an opiated Fleetwood Mac vibe and adds some needling Crazy Horse guitar to spell-binding effect, but best of all is ‘Daphne’, a gentle finger-picked folk song coloured by baroque strings that swells into a Bon Iver-assisted, prog-psych epic recalling Dark Side-era Pink Floyd.

Lia Ices

Whether or not Grown Unknown propels Lia Ices to super-stardom, it’s a bewitching album, and a thing of rare beauty.

***** Culture and Life

Don’t believe me listen to this beauty of new album “Love Is Won”: