Lianna Ankney makes her solo debut as Diamond Shapes | Local Beat | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Lianna Ankney makes her solo debut as Diamond Shapes

Her songs bring to mind the simple sweetness and melodic complexity of Angel Olsen and Joanna Newsom, and the shimmer of Vashti Bunyan

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Two years after deciding to start guitar lessons, Lianna Ankney made a deal with herself. Either she would start writing her own songs — something she had aimed to do from the beginning — or she would quit. "I thought, ‘I'll put some chords together and see what comes of it," she recalls. "And I started singing, which I found out I could do. Which was really strange."

With some encouragement (and more guitar lessons) from her co-worker, Nic Snyder of the band 1,2,3, Ankney began recording her songs, and this past summer, finished her debut under the name Diamond Shapes. Snyder offered his production services. Though Ankney had some musical experience — she played flute in the school band — Snyder did much of the arranging and helped Ankney figure out how she wanted the record to sound. "I felt like such a novice as a musician, [but] I really trusted his opinion," she says. "I really felt like [his input] fit my music very well."

Diamond Shapes' Lianna Ankney
  • Diamond Shapes' Lianna Ankney

Though Ankney sings backup for Greensburg-based indie rockers Household Stories, she doesn't play many shows on her own, partly because of stage fright, and partly because, she says with a smile and a shrug, "I don't really know how to get into playing shows.  I love sharing my music, but my issue is playing guitar in front of people. There's always so much to learn." True as that may be, it also seems a bit too modest in light of Diamond Shapes, an impressive collection of songs which bring to mind the simple sweetness and melodic complexity of Angel Olsen and Joanna Newsom, and the shimmer of Vashti Bunyan.

For now, Ankney, who works as a graphic designer, is taking things slow: In lieu of a big release show, she opted to host a small get-together in her home in Export. But this year she hopes to start playing out more often, and writing more songs. "When I was in high school, I was drawn to the visual arts, and quit band for that reason." Now, she says, "I feel like it's come full circle. I feel like this is what I was meant to be doing the whole time."

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