Lia Ices - Grown Unknown
Grown Unknown is the second album by Lia Ices, the Brooklyn based folk songstress who has unusually named herself after an ice cream parlour in her home district. Grown Unknown follows 2008's Necima and shows Lia Ices attempting to strip away the frailty she was criticised for in her debut release and really express herself. Surprisingly short for a long-play release, this represents a musical collection of beautiful and heartfelt folk ballads, and the minimal instrumentation on the record really allows her to express her greatest asset, her voice.
In terms of musical comparisons, Grown Unknown is most in the vein of songstresses such as Feist and (recently reviewed by us) Rebekka Karijord. Ices subscribes wholeheartedly to the admittedly not uncommon soft instrumentation and breath-like atmospheric vocal combination but then it has to said that her voice could not be more perfectly suited for it. On first listen, the record does sound a bit samey, with the challenge being differentiating one track from the next. However, the more you listen to Grown Unknown, the more apparent the subtle changes of pace, tempo and tone becomes. By far the outstanding track on the album is 'Daphne', which sees Ices collaborate with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver - an eerie yet heart-warming combination of softly plucked acoustics and violins, climaxing in an expanse of drums and guitars. Title track 'Grown Unknown' presents the listener with a different experience; hand-claps and twanging acoustics injecting an element of jaunty folk into the middle of an album that could otherwise become a tad melancholic. Ices' vocal strengths are arguably demonstrated best in 'Ice Wine', accompanied only by a simple violin backing, and allows her to lattice her vocals with the instrumentation to create a haunting masterpiece that sets the trend for the rest of the album.
What makes Grown Unknown good is how comforting it is. The vocals, as already mentioned are by far the main strength apparent in the record, but the echoing atmosphere created shouldn't be underestimated. However, it isn't perhaps as fulfilling as it could be. There is a certain lack of depth or punch evident in many tracks, and you find yourself urging Ices to really hit on in many of the tracks. 'Grown Unknown' is a prime example of this; although a good track, it's almost a waiting game for Ices to really deliver the knock-out blow. That sums up the record really. Whilst her voice is undoubtedly beautiful, it is too often safely contained in the same key and you feel if she really pushed herself just a little bit further it would be an outstanding record. Nonetheless, it is a varied and well organised record, a solid follow-up to her debut and a good all-round addition to any folk or acoustic collection.
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