"Love Is Won" starts with soft but clear singing, sometimes in harmony, nice punchy drums, piano, and keyboard; something about it feels like it's from a much less fusty 1972, with a guitar part sounding like nothing so much as a horn blast. With that as a tone setter, Grown Unknown explores a kind of lost elegance: it's half drowned-in-gorgeous-reverb country of the kind Gram Parsons could nod sagely at, half stately post-'60s rock & roll as elegant mood music via the Band rather than Roxy Music. When moments like the guitar snarls and bigger drums kick in on "Daphne" the feeling is almost like that of orchestral shading, something that lends heft without being central. What is central is the singing, Ices' leads and backing parts creating lovely moments, with songs like "After Is Always Before" sounding like showstoppers without being overbearing as one might expect (call it a sign of her experimental theater background at work). The tradeoff between guitar parts and singing on "Bag of Wind," with the vocals above an arrangement mostly defined both by piano, space, and silence; meanwhile, the stately then swooning strings on "Ice Wine" are all lovely, with appropriately fragile elegance. Perhaps the most straightforward song throughout, "Lilac" uses its acoustic guitar/brushed drum backing to make it the penultimate song it is, a quiet drawing of breath before the sonorous horns that introduce "New Myth." This all makes the sudden handclapping on the title track even more inviting -- if not Beyoncé, say -- and the impact is almost like that of Sinéad O'Connor's "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" 20 years prior, using a then-common hip-hop signifier as the bed of something else, in this case, Ices' singing and an upfront acoustic guitar.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett