Lia Ices is the stage name of singer-songwriter Lia Kessel, who is a Connecticut native living in New York. Some people categorize her music as “freak-folk”. Some call it “lush, experimental pop”, or any number of other things. A lot of people say that she reminds them of Kate Bush, and I definitely get that. To be honest, though, I don’t even know how I would describe her sound.
She learned the piano at age five. Before she started making records, she studied dance and theatre in New York. She also studied Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
She performed under her own name and recorded one EP in 2005, but I don’t think that record ever saw the light of day. She started playing as Lia Ices in 2008, and in the autumn of that year, she released the debut album —Necima. That record won rave reviews, even if she was still flying under the radar of most people.
She signed to Jagjaguwar Records (home of the magnificent Sharon Van Etten), and her second record came out in January of 2011. I had never heard of her before, but around that time, one of my Music Geek pals sent an email asking if any of us had heard of her or her new record. He said that he had previewed a couple of songs and thought that she was sort of like “Cat Power meets Regina Spektor”. That was all I needed to hear, so I rushed out and bought the download of Grown Unknown. I liked it a lot, but it became one of those records that I just kind of forgot about as the rest of 2011’s releases unfolded. It’s an unfortunate consequence of releasing a record in January. This is exactly why Jagjaguwar recently re-released the brilliant Sharon Van Etten record Tramp. Just their little way of reminding the list-makers that it was a 2012 release.
A couple of weeks ago, I rediscovered Grown Unknown in my digital catalog, and I’m digging it a lot. Again. A lot of people would elect to feature the song “Daphne”, which features a duet with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. It’s a nice song, but I’m way more into “After is Before”.
This is that song.
“After is Before” by Lia Ices
I really like how dreamy the vocals are. That’s very soothing. Although I like the simplicity of the almost military cadence of the drums, there’s something a little bit off about the rhythm. I can’t really explain it, but it’s like there’s a missing beat a couple of times and an extra beat a couple of times. I don’t know if it’s by design, because of bad production, because of a bad digital copy, or if it’s actually something that I’m making up. Whatever it is, I still like the song a lot, and it’s just what I need today.
You can get Grown Unknown directly from the Jagjaguwar Records web store here.