Lia Ices – Grown Unknown

I never thought I’d actively think about Paula Cole again. When she stopped wondering where all the cowboys had gone – when I grew out of my teenage obsession with a certain Mr. Dawson Leery – I thought Paula and I were through. And though, admittedly, I’m not one to seek out the female singer-songwriter over other musician types, I heard my fill of others like her in the intervening dozen or so years, and barring Natalie Merchant, no one drove me to recall her.

But whenever the double-tracked vocals on sections of Lia Ices’ Grown Unknown kick in, I’m back in my bedroom, wishing a Dawson would climb a ladder into my window. It’s not that Cole and Ices are objectively all that similar as complete artists, it’s that their voices resonate into my female heart in a familiar way, one I haven’t felt in a long time.

To be fair, Ices has a fair bit larger rebel streak compositionally than Cole’s – things have moved along quite a bit since the late ’90s, and Ices isn’t beholden to the songstresses that came before. But the low piano pounding and the throaty lament are derived from a common stock – the Toris and the Sarahs and the Jonis smile down from above. The finger snapping and sleigh bells in “Little Marriage” add an interesting variety of pace to the record to supplement the interesting harmonies between primary and backing singing.

“Daphne” features Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who’s been whoring his voice out to anyone he damn well pleases – even Kanye West – since his meteoric rise to indie fame three years ago. It’s a lilting ballad, replete with acoustic finger picking and pizzicato strings. Orchestral and lush, “Daphne” picks its way across the minefield of duet dullness with moderate success.

Still, though perhaps gimmicky, the handclaps and thundering drums of record’s title track show off Lia’s considerable vocal prowess, as well as an ability to escape the sort of instrumentation monotony that plagues many others of her genre. Though she’s obviously reverent of musical precedent, she’s not mired in it

So Paula Cole and I won’t ever take an emotional journey together again, it’s true. I doubt I’ll give her much additional thought beyond hilarious certain fake Twitter accounts wondering daily about the whereabouts of said cowboys. But the timbre of her voice lives on, inside the canon in which Lia Ices is the most recent entry.

Lia Ices
Grown Unknown