Singer-songwriter Lia Ices attracted a bit of attention for her 2008 debut, Necima, but it was 2011’s Grown Unknown that exposed her to a wider audience. The album featured a duet with Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon, yet it was the song “Love Is Won” that generated the most buzz: A simmering ballad that set Ices’ stunning if cryptic vocals against a backdrop of elegant electric organ and spare drums, the track was used to devastating effect over the end credits in the first season of Girls.
While Ices’ first two albums recalled the work of Cat Power and Tori Amos, on Ices she expands her palette considerably, leaning toward the eclecticism of Kate Bush and Bat For Lashes. Piano balladry gives way to loops and samples, while the uncluttered “live room” sound that infused her previous songs now feels more produced and considered. Ices finds Lia Ices in a more experimental mode, as she makes her rhythms first and builds her songs in light layers atop the beats.
This shift in sound correlates to a geographical shift; Ices recently moved from upstate New York to Northern California. There’s also a sense of levity, as Ices writes in the album notes: “Flight became a metaphor for the ignition of the imagination.” In moving away from solely acoustic instrumentation, she also reached out to experimental hip-hop producer Clams Casino, who helps give songs like “Love Ices Over” a curiously strong boom-tick.
“Tell Me” and the percolating “Higher” capture an ebullience that brings to mind Paul Simon‘s Graceland or Panda Bear‘s Person Pitch. In leisurely paced but lopingly percussive songs like “Thousand Eyes” and “Electric Arc,” both Ices and Casino hearken back to a time in the early ’90s when winsome pop intermingled with the head-nodding beats of trip-hop. Traces of St. Etienne and Everything But the Girl surface here, but Lia Ices is looking up, not back.