Lia Ices — Grown Unknown

Released on Jagjaguwar 1/25/11

It is no easy task to try and describe Brooklyn’s latest breakout sensation Lia Ices. After some hunting around, I discovered I was not alone with this sense of confused wonder and adulation. The New York Times describes her as “pristinely strange”; Pitchfork marvels at her ability to “flit gracefully between sultry, come-hither coos and emotive yelps,” comparing her to Cat Power, Feist and Tori Amos; and takes the cake with this wholly referential and cutting-edge comparison, “Joanna Newsom’s pot-smoking, college-dropout sister.”

Ices certainly is strange, her music pristine, and her voice a unique blend of ebb and flow, surge and stream (and for the record she is a college graduate). It is hard to put a finger on how an album as understated as her latest release Grown Unknown (to be released January 25th on Jagjaguwar) could have such presence and could carry such purpose.

As consumers we seek definition for comfort. We desire descriptors and comparisons in order to then categorize our tastes and motivations. We are a demanding sea of brain librarians seeking refuge in the solace of recognition. Yes, Ices voice is lovely just like Chan Marshall, Alela Diane, Kate Bush, Enya Brennan, Stevie Nicks and scores of others, but what is refreshing about Grown Unknown is its overall ambiguity and resistance to compartmentalization. Ices is the exception to the rule, and a welcome apparition hovering just above the card catalog.

Grown Unknown shoots out of the gates with a force that is both humbling and elegant. “Love Is Won” is a gorgeous, stark and haunting ballad with a gentle groove and particular consideration for space and balance that sets the stage perfectly for the remainder of the album. Next is “Daphne,” a collaboration with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon that begins with a slow, steady build and develops into a rock-solid crescendo and a well-crafted and beautifully harmonized exit.

Overall Grown Unknown is a minimalist, modern masterpiece. The arrangements are adept and the feel immediate and impacting. Ices may not be the “Kanye West of Brooklyn,” but she is a proficient vocalist and composer and her sparse arrangements are a celebration to behold. Though unassuming and unclassified, it seems Lia Ices will be a genre in and of herself before long, file next to “stunning” please.