Kina Grannis has been in the music game for several years with whispering vocals, rhythmic guitars, a cool bass line and impassioned lyrics. Since winning a Super Bowl commercial contest in early 2008, she has been propelled into YouTube stardom.
Having collaborated with dozens of popular YouTube artists, singer-songwriters and aspiring production companies over the years, Grannis has become one of the most familiar faces on the Internet. From a stop-motion video featuring 288,000 Jelly Belly beans (“In Your Arms”) to her sweet, bubbly melodies and airy vocals (“Valentine,” “Message from Your Heart”), her melodic and enchanting presence on and off-screen can be widely felt.
With her latest release of “Elements,” Grannis travels into territory unfamiliar for long-time listeners. Boasting elements of woodsy lullaby-like melodies and breathy wistfulness, Grannis enters the contemporary indie singer-songwriter world and creates a steady twelve-track album packed with emotion and depth. From upbeat tunes to nostalgic lullabies, Grannis creates a mature album that is much more in her element.
The album opens up with the rhythmic “Dear River,” which serves as the second single. Featuring rolling percussive elements, upbeat acoustics and breezy vocals, the album begins with an air of freshness and ease as she continuously sings, “Just keep on, river gone.” This lends the way to the captivating “The Fire,” a toothy, percussion-filled anthem paired with a steady rhythmic pattern of electric guitars and tough bass lines. The excitement of this song builds up as continuous drumbeats are dropped and Grannis signals the rise of ‘the fire.’
As we get deeper into the album, Grannis creates an atmosphere of nostalgia, yearning and continuous movement. Songs such as “My Dear,” “Oh Father,” and “Throw It Away” feature more upbeat acoustics recounting stories of love and loss. Her softer songs allude to her hopes, dreams and life experiences, just as “Little Worrier” rides along a current of nostalgia and her crooning vocals over “Forever Blue” pulls you into a well of familiar sadness.
An emotionally driven album that lays testament to lessons and experiences that have shaped her into the person she is today, Grannis retells moments of her life that are personal yet captivating. In her closing song “This Far,” Grannis recounts her long journey pursuing music, with all the ups-and-downs and thoughts of not being able to make a career of it.
She noted at her May 6 album release show, “It’s incredible that I get to do what I love, and it is entirely because of you. I don’t know if you understand that.” Having produced her album independently, the lack of excessive production over her tracks permits an undeniable sincerity. The organic-feeling and minimal production of the album creates a relaxed flow that makes the album feel shorter than it actually is.
With a singer-songwriter feel of the likes of Ed Sheeran, Passenger or Ingrid Michaelson, Grannis paves her own way with her captivating vocals and refreshing voice that seems to put any one at ease.
“I’ve lived a lot of life since then,” she continued at her show. “I’ve grown a lot, a lot of really amazing things and a lot of really sad things have happened since the last album. And so making this one, I kind of allowed myself to go places that were scarier that I wouldn’t go to in the past. And I just wanted to be as honest as I could as scary as that is for me.”
With “Elements,” Grannis truly taps into something special. Losing herself to her music at some moments and convincingly pleading on at others, the emotions explored throughout this album leave a feeling of comfort and satisfaction. Whether it is a feeling of connection or bliss, this album is an exploration of self.
ONLY RECOMMENDED IF: You like artists like Ed Sheeran, Passenger, Priscilla Ahn, Ingrid Michaelson or Sara Bareilles.
This article was published in UC Irvine’s New University here.