Lia Ices’ willowy vocals waft effortlessly across the opening moments of “Love Is Won,” piercing the quiet, backed only by simple piano chords, heavily-reverbed like the thick condensation of air above a lake at summer’s dawn. It is a fitting introduction to the avant-garde pop songstress, as her voice is her greatest instrument. Like a swift seductress in murky waters, her barely-above-a-whisper coos resonate throughout the subtle orchestrations on “Little Marriage,” in a wispy, lilting fashion, embellished with bells and finger snaps. Though Grown Unknown does begin to feel slightly redundant in its form towards the end, with mellow, mid-tempo avant ballads sandwiched between more of the same, Ices’ sophomore effort sees her develop her own voice. Rather than echo the safety of the piano-based singer-songwriter vibe that permeated debut Necima, she shows a more solid understanding of herself as an artist, experimenting with wider, vaster soundscapes. Captivating standout tracks “Grown Unknown” and “Daphne,” (feauting Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon) play to Ices’ greatest strengths, embracing her more experimental leanings atop interesting instrumental backdrops. Ultimately, Lia Ices’ voice is the main attraction. It is, in effect, the conductor guiding the instrumentation and the siren captivating by injecting an ethereal, effervescent vitality and experimental avant-garde lean into an otherwise familiar and tired formula.
[MP3]: Lia Ices – “Grown Unknown”
Two songs in, and Megan Keely had me smiling as I sat with earphones in during a mid-class break.
The moment her voice joins the ukulele in opening track, “Anymore,” you’re hit with a warm inviting timbre beckoning you to keep listening. Keely has a tone that is instantaneously appealing: rich and smooth and just a little smoky. It’s the kind with universal draw that is so immediate it’s almost startling. (more…)
Dawn Time Riot
Release Date: October 16, 2010
Dawn Time Riot is the full-length debut for Kingston, ON the Gertrudes, following their critically acclaimed 2009 EP, Hard Water.A little bit of bluegrass, a dash of folk-infused country, a dribble of ambience and a lot of passion make up Dawn Time Riot. A homegrown ensemble, their latest effort features over 100 Kingston guest musicians. While the traditional folk sounds of banjo, mandolin and harmonica are the glue that binds, the inclusion of the Theremin, brass instruments and other electronic sounds catapult the otherwise familiar, down-home folk album into a modern sphere of uncharted territory. An incredibly diverse collective, the Gertrudes don’t shy away from creating insanely catchy, leg-thumbing folk pop anthems (“Wind From the South”), while paying tribute to bluegrass with the boisterous, banjo-laden “Freight Train.” The aching “Sailor” showcases the their ability to translate feeling and setting through sound, crafting a howling abyss that transforms into a catastrophic storm. Standout track “You Don’t Mind” is a slow, deep breath that sounds, at times, like a sombre hymn. A meticulously crafted spectrum of modern folk sounds, Dawn Time Riot is an ambitious debut for the Kingston collective, which have bigger and brighter things awaiting them.
The Gertrudes – “Sailor”
This review was originally published on Exclaim.ca.
Release Date: Oct. 12, 2010
A marked departure from her usual collection of reflective, intro-centric tunes, singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser draws inspiration from characters other than herself and opts for colorful storytelling this time around on third solo album, Flags.
Despite a change in songwriting methods and a more upbeat tone in comparison to previous efforts, fans will be glad to know that Fraser’s soft, lilting melodies remain intact. In fact, with a new voice, Flags comes armed with a renewed spirit and diverse catalogue of charming tunes.
The New Zealand songstress has come into her own with her latest self-produced record with a confidence that is apparent in her exploration of different instruments and soundscapes. Standout tracks include the piano-backed Aqualung duet, “Who Are We Fooling,” the ‘every girl’ track and Canadian shout-out, “Betty” (which could have been easily renamed to reflect any girl), and beautifully sparse “Sailboats.”
With Fraser’s drive to write music reawakened one night at California music festival, Coachella, it’s only fitting that there be a song in its honor and recognition. However, the gravity of the track may be lost on listeners who aren’t aware of the back-story. Kick-started by the Indio desert music festival and recorded and produced in the City of Angels, you could call this a real California album. (Wood & Bone)
[MP3]: Brooke Fraser – Something In the Water (right-click, save as)
Read more on Brooke’s approach to ‘Flags’ HERE.
**WIN a PAIR OF TICKETS to her show in TORONTO (PLUS a SIGNED COPY of FLAGS): ENTER HERE!