Controversial environmentalist poet Robinson Jeffers once wrote, “The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe.” The circular nature of earthy art, while somewhat dismissed as a hippy dippy construct, carries a lot of truth and weight when contrasted against the industrial gunk of computerized modern pop. It’s this earthiness that Lia Ices bases her new single, the appropriately titled “Earthy.”
A slight departure from her earlier material like the pastoral “Daphne” or the ethereal yet icy “Love Is Won”, “Earthy” taps a darker vein, warmer and more comforting in its largely acoustic opening half of the song, her voice a mixture between Lissie’s farm-rich folkpop and Regina Spektor’s husky eccentric alto. “Earthy” starts out as a lilting lullaby, accompanied solely by a gentle piano.
Like many of Ices’ signature songs, however, “Earthy” takes a slight left turn half way through, encroaching peculiar Joanna Newsom territory, dynamically shifting to a psychedelic aria with a swirl of warpy guitars and brushed percussion. It’s this intriguing interplay between soft and loud that maintains that while this is a slightly marked departure from her earlier material, it hasn’t strayed too far from her essence. Her muse is still intact.
“Well I thought I’d be a dancer / use my body like a language…I never wanted to write / Sometimes it comes right through me / Not a choice, It is a duty,” she sings, echoing that sentiment.
Like the rest of her new LP Family Album (pre-order it!), “Earthy” was written in a transitional time in her life. Moving from the hipster-haven of Brooklyn to the largely rural wine country of Moon Mountain in Sonoma, CA, Ices and her husband tossed off the city bustle for a life more connected to the alpine terrain. In addition, they started a family… with this album’s conception mirroring her development of her then unborn daughter Una. With this shift in priorities and environment came a shift in mindset, one connected more with Mother Earth than Father Concrete. Again, finding inspiration in poet Robinson Jeffers and his adherence to the environmental movement of sustainable energy and grassroots ecological conservation, she fell in sync with the macrocosm and her music evolved appropriately.
“We wanted to bring to life the feeling I had up on the mountain, playing solo at the piano, where I would get lost in thought, surrounded by nature, where a whole cacophony of music builds around me, like a fairy tale,” she describes of constructing the song and the fascinating interplay of instruments and contrasting melodies. “It’s basically what happens when I sit down at the piano and the spirit moves me to compose.”
In lockstep with the birth of her daughter, the arrival of the album, and more pointedly, this song, was a celebrated birth. “‘Earthy’ was one of those songs that came out fully formed, as if it was a gift from another dimension that I’m still trying to decode,” she explains, in step with Jeffers’ worldview. “It reflects on the idea that my music, and the process of revealing myself through art, is rooted in The Natural World — the earthy — my catalyst for discovery.”
With her new life on a different coast and now a family to raise (she recently delivered her second child), life has shifted a bit for Lia Ices. Her muse has taken residence in the natural surroundings of her current life away from the Brooklyn asphalt where it was originally found. “Coming to California and living on the mountain and being in nature, and then starting to grow a human, I wanted to make something without having any ulterior motives other than letting what naturally happens, happen,” she says, enjoying this new life she’s embraced. “The more real life gets, the more mystical it feels.”