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There's so much to like about the music Lia Ices makes; her second album, 2011's Grown Unknown was a great record and huge step forward from her middling debut album where she appeared to be trying to ape singers like Feist and Joanna Newsom instead of finding her own personality. But with Grown Unknown she seemed to have discovered her own voice and expanded her songs away from plain balladry. It would have been fair, then, to expect her third record - and second for Jagjaguwar - to be another step forward: sadly, it feels like Lia Ices is at the very least stuck in neutral, if not in reverse on Ices.

The thing with Ices is not that it lacks ambition. If anything, it's too ambitious and the variety of styles found across the record comes across like Lia Ices and her cohorts were throwing anything at the songs just to see what would stick. So as a result we get cursory nods towards Middle Eastern rhythms (album opener 'Tell Me'), trip-hop atmospherics ('Thousand Eyes') and highlife ('Higher') - and that's just in the opening three tracks.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition and Ices should be praised for taking risks (risks which extend to moving away from New York and heading to California, and working with Clams Casino) but it's when the album settles into a groove that we get the best results. Both 'Love Ices Over' and 'Magick' (which follow each other) are lovely dream-pop songs recalling Beach House at their most dainty, and later we get the more pop end of that spectrum with the brilliant 'Creature', which sounds like Zero 7's collaborations with Sia from about ten years ago. They all share a certain "feel" and the benefit from that is you are able to get a real connection to Lia Ices. On the tracks where she dabbles in various styles it feels like Ices is hiding behind the effects and instrumentation; the guitar riff which scythes through 'Higher' is an unsettling shock to the system and unbalances the song, while the aforementioned Middle Eastern percussion circling 'Tell Me' has a bolted-on appearance.

Ices saves the best for last in the form of 'Waves'; it's a glorious slice of space-gospel, drums reverberating across the track while Ices' voice is manipulated before she gets to show off her impressive range, the song climbing to a sacramental and explosive chorus and ending. If that's where she's heading next, then I can't wait to hear more songs like it.

Overall, though, Ices is something of a disappointment. Unfocused in places, it only comes together as a whole in fleeting moments... but those moments are really rather lovely, so there's enough here to say that Lia Ices remains a talented artist and one to keep watch over.

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