In the same way that Joni Mitchell reflected the California vibe on Blue, Lia Ices mirrors a similar consciousness on Family Album 50-some years farther down the road. Her 2014 album, Ices, marched to a synthetic beat with layered electronics and loops. Having moved west and become pregnant, she admits that the surroundings influenced her enormously, “I leaned into that California freedom feeling … this ethos can feel like a throwback way of doing things and making art.”
Much like Mitchell, she opens the first track, ‘Earthy’ with just a piano, admitting to a certain wariness, “I never wanted to sing/ I thought I’d be a dancer/ Use my body like a language.” This startling admission disarms you, enabling Ices to achieve a sense of freedom she uses to great effect moving forward. A spiritual descendent of the California scene, using instrumentation like flutes and strings, her themes also travel on similar trails. A warm breeze from the California coast, ‘Young on the Mountain’ floats in while being pushed forward by a strong beat. “You can never lose/ What is truly yours/ When we see impossible colours/ We can be impossibly free.”
Having a child also becomes an important point of reflection. “The song ‘Anywhere at All’ is really about feeling like the world is new again after giving birth. I felt like I could literally see differently … You never see things the same or hear things the same.” Doubled voices over acoustic guitar and insistent drums bond with strings, as wordless vocals take over and move this song into territories both beautiful and unexpected with the aforementioned flute propelling the song in ways that play out the exotic feel of the US west coast.
Strings power ‘I’m Gone’ taking the song down unexpected pathways with the sound opening-up even more when bell-like keyboard tones deliver a solo building off the strings. It’s only then that you realise how the pathways Ices has taken are not always what you’d expect and along the way you get much more than you had expected. Framed around the sound of Ices piano, ‘Our Time’ also features strings coming in out of the blue creating breathtaking moments at the song’s conclusion.
On Family Album Lia Ices illustrates how a change of scenery, combined with a change in lifestyle can reinvigorate how we think and what we hear.