As 2020 stutters to a halt, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter. Next year offers hope, a change, and the green shoots of promise are appearing. With that of course comes the expectations of music, albums and tours. One such pleasure to look forward to is the forthcoming release by the exquisite Lia Ices. Due for release January 29th, Family Album hails the return of Lia after an absence of over six years, and like the promise of 2021 it is well worth the wait.
There is a feeling that the previous, critically acclaimed works- Necima (2008), Grown Unknown (2011), and Ices (2014), have all been leading to Family Album. Perhaps the relocation from New York to California has ingrained itself into her creativity, and a new surrounding has brought forth a greater perspective. A tethering to the soil, instead of her previous concrete muse. That said, the album feels as if the songs themselves are given a kiss of energy, brought to life by the voice of Lia.
The nine tracks are a graceful representation of the ladies talent. Opening with the minimalistic Earthy, a personal song that is one part Laura Nyro, another wholly Lia Ices. A mirror which reflects her inner self, gliding along passionately until the 1:50 mark where a wah-wah guitar kicks in and takes the song in a brand new direction. A genius move, unexpected and totally brilliant, separating it from other piano ballads, highlighting the singer-songwriter’s technique. “Hymn” on the other hand, begins with a rolling guitar line, a slide guitar, and again a touch of psychedelic Americana. Lyrically it is flawless, with a purity pulled from honesty, and the added string sections bring a dramatic atmosphere to the theme.
Following, “Young On The Mountain” further extends the breath of the album. The simple piano and hand clap scenario makes way for the soaring full band. A playful, soaring number, whereas the narrative has depth, ths sound is uplifting, creating a balance which becomes addictive on further listens. This is where Family Album reveals itself as a carefully woven tapestry, every song providing a picture, a symbolic moment in Lia Ices’ life. “Careful Of Love” suggests that ideal, with thoughts of love wrapped in the growth of a garden (winery), the delicate attention needed before it blossoms . At this point, it is worth mentioning the production, by the late producer JR White, which is in places mind blowing. With feedback and fuzz placed in the right areas to bring a drama to the surface, through a set of headphones it is transcendent.
A different dynamic swells in “Beauty Blue”. With a driving, electronic breakbeat, this passion play strides forward. Lia’s voice zooms with athleticism, a serene image builds with a hopeful uplift. Whereas the dense strings of “I’m Gone” set a foreboding scene within an organically drenched sound of bongo beats and a gentle glaze of synth. In a twist, something this album stylishly executes, the piano becomes front and centre with the title track. That retrospective nuance returns, as the singer-songwriter continues her journey into her very being and turning it into art.
At the finale, the pace quickens, as does the intensity. The piano provides as much drama as the vocal lines or even lyrics. “Our Time” is something which invades your senses, and leaves a pleasant aftertaste. And then you hit repeat to enjoy the album once again. In truth, Family Album is a breathtaking piece of work. It holds the personality and personal experience of Lia Ices. It is spiritual, painfully honest but above all it is an exceptional listen. That makes it special, and that brings hope for the future.