Lia Ices: Ices

Photo: Brian Bowen Smith

Lia Ices' third album is nothing short of folk style innovation.

Lia Ices


Label: Jagjaguwar
US Release Date: 2014-09-16
UK Release Date: 2014-09-15
Label website
Artist website

Folk music doesn't really lend itself to innovation. When tried and tested folk musicians do try to spice up the relatively narrow sound of folk it can result in some disastrous consequences. When Lia Ices entered the rarely tread realm of cool indie folk music back in 2008 with her debut album Necima, there was definitely a sense of "one-album-is-all-you-need" from her. And while her follow up Grown Unkown had its one or two pleasure points, her musical style and relatively lack of variation led you to believe that every subsequent album she would release would be pretty much the same retread of terrain already traveled.

Boy, did she ever prove me wrong! Ices, Lia's follow-up to 2011's Grown Unknown release is nothing short of a massive accomplishment in experimental folk music that pays off in the most surprising ways. From the opening "Tell Me" with its Eastern inspired instrumentation and carefully executed production that makes everything sound like it all just fell into place by accident, you get the sense that you're in for a sonic ride that has rarely ever been achieved with the typical folk album. Lia, and producer Benny Sagittarius, have opted for a more dreamy and warbly approach this time around, and while this style muddles the Lia's hypnotic reverberating vocal style, so that you can barely make out what she's singing, the sheer sense of what the music evokes makes this shortcoming easy to forgive.

"Thousand Eyes" the second single and second track on the record, continues the swinging Eastern vibe that was set by "Tell Me" but it's "Higher", the third track, that manages to convince the listener that Ices is Lia's best album to date. With instruments that sound like they were purposefully filtered through an old '70s vinyl LP on its last few spins, she sings: "I got wings and baby I am made for flying / I seen apparitions as I keep on getting higher / You gotta keep me close, you gotta let me go / The farther up the farther up that I can go now / The nearer into to you I promise I will fall down / I will never leave you lonely." It's a vacillating love song of connection and withdrawal sung to a happy (well, as happy as a torch singer can get) swinging beat with chimes flowing in and out. It's combination of beautifully sung melodies that evoke heartache over a sing-song beat suggest "Higher" is trying to establish a whole new genre all its own. It's the highlight on the record, but that's not to say the rest isn't filled with continuous surprises.

While the tracks that combine fluttering synths overlaid on top of Eastern inspired chimes and string instruments and played against a stop-and-go rhythm section (that is equally filled with interesting patterns) are the most striking on Ices, Lia tempers these more upbeat moments with beautiful circuitous tracks that are musically less involved, such as "Love Ices Over", "Sweet as Ice" and the engaging album closer "Waves". The album is carefully paced so as to keep the listener engaged throughout, careful not to overburden with inaccessible sounds, or bore with meandering melodies that overstay their welcome.

Lia Ices has managed to cross the terrain of pigeon-holing folk music and deliver something that few artists in that genre manage to accomplish—a newly inspired collection of tracks that transcends the narrow confines of that musical style while maintaining a consistent homegrown sound. And while the album may be hard to follow lyrically at times, Lia's entrancing and absorbing vocal style help keep you firmly placed in her grasp managing to convey a message through sound rather than words. Moreover, at ten tracks, Ices never overstays its welcome. It's an album that's impressing and promising of a creative and innovative career from this young artist.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.