Lia Ices, “Family Album”
Lia Ices wrote her most recent studio album while pregnant with her first child. Living alongside her husband, a wine-maker, in Sonoma, she was said to be inspired by the pastoral and lush gardens of her heavenly surroundings. The resulting record, Family Album, sounds exactly like what would be expected of that utopian environment. Like the album art—which on its own harkens back to the covers of Joan Baez or Emmylou Harris—Ices’ fourth studio effort is kind, relaxing, and smooth. Like some of her Californian contemporaries, Ices mixes old and new in a pleasantly familiar way.
As a rule, Ices’ voice lurks peacefully beneath her piano-driven arrangements. Part Cat Power and part Fiona Apple, her timbre is smooth and her movements are unbelievably controlled. Boosted by the string section during the latter choruses of “Hymn” and complemented by a cleverly placed flute in “Anywhere at All,” Ices is fairly direct and unapologetic, which only helps her lyrical conviction. Elsewhere, “Careful of Love” is perhaps the record’s best song, with Ices’ agile melodies juxtaposed with gnarly feedback and deep, warbly keyboards. More subtly, the album’s opener, the appropriately titled “Earthy,” is a slowly building ballad with Americana influences, while “I’m Gone” features strikingly percussive strings alongside sweeping vocal lines.
Ices’ tone on the record isn’t explicitly motherly, but her vocal delivery and prose has a certain maturity that one can only assume comes from being a new (or expecting) parent. It’s clear that both Ices’ surroundings and recent transition to motherhood contribute to a holistic voice that serves her arrangements wonderfully.
Without mincing words, there’s very little to dislike here. While Ices’ songwriting decisions may sometimes border on pedestrian, the arrangements she’s crafted are brilliantly tinged with vintage influences and perfectly embody the flowy nature of her Northern Californian setting. Family Album isn’t a perfect record, but it does offer all that one would reasonably need in an album of this scope and ambition. With mysticism and incredible intrigue, Lia Ices transports any willing listener to a beautiful, expansive place that is as pleasant as it is wistful.