The opening piano notes of “Earthy,” the first song on Lia Ices’ new release, Family Album, sets the tone for what you’re about to hear and where it will take you: sun-dappled folk-pop, the mountains of Sonoma.
When writing Family Album, Ices found herself creating two things at once. She was pregnant with her first child and trying to make her first record in six years. Each day, she would walk through a rose garden from her home to her studio, sitting at her piano and being present for whatever was to come. The result listens like California fresh air. Family Album is effervescent and pastoral, with Ices’ honey-hued vocals blooming across its nine tracks about the grounding of motherhood, the wildness of the West Coast, and the freedom that only comes with radical self-realization.
Piano, and the way Ices’ voice converses with it, is the heart of Family Album. Even amid some of the psychedelic-tinged full arrangements, we always come back to the cool-toned keys and Ices herself. There are echoes of Joni Mitchell in the curves of her vocals, which seem to trickle upward, like a stream flowing in reverse up a mountainside. Ices is skilled at using her voice as an instrument, filling every inch of space with mystical incantations of “ooohs” and “laaas” like on the heady “Young on the Mountain,” the hypnotic “Careful of Love,” and the whimsical “Anywhere at All.”
Ices is wrapping her arms around the natural world and its healing effects in these songs, the way a breeze from a certain angle can change your mind or the particular color of the sky can show you something about yourself you’ve never seen. “It’s another earthly morning / I can hear the mountain yawning,” she sings on “Earthy.” Ices likens herself to a vessel through which a spirit Muse moves, singing about never having wanted to be a singer, but being called to do so by something greater than herself. It’s the kind of dreamy place we all hope to get to someday, understanding what we’re here to do and doing it, fearlessly.