Wednesday, 23 September 2015

KINA GRANNIS - American singer

Kina Grannis is an American singer-songwriter who grew up in California (she is half Japanese, half European American) first learning the violin, but at age 15 she found the guitar was her instrument.  After apparently playing gigs in front of her stuffed animals and singing with her sisters, when she got her own guitar she started to compose her own songs.  She then went to the University of Southern California in L.A. in 2003.  Kina was so good staff at the University's Thornton School of Music asked her to produce an album for their music industry departments.  That E.P/Album became her first entitled, "Sincerely, Me" was released in 2006.  She self-released 2 more albums  the same year and then won the Doritos Crash The Super Bowl contest and earned a recording contract with Interscope Records.  This was due to the video to "Message From Your Heart" being shown as a winner during half-time at the Super Bowl XLII in February 2008. 

Since then, Kina has been one of the most popular personalities on YouTube with her videos having over 99 million views!  After signing with Interscope, she did not release anything with them and instead told them she wanted to remain an independent artist and self-released her album "Stairwells".  She has won several awards, appeared in short films and her songs have appeared in many TV shows such as General Hospital and Home & Away.

I first heard Kina only recently when I found the song "The Fire" online, I just thought she had a beautiful voice and reminded me a little of Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles.  I thought I should check this lady out.  She can, at one point remind you of alternative singers like Alanis Morissette and Tegan & Sara, then swiftly make you think of Karen Carpenter and Country stars past and present!

Her first extended E.P/Album  in 2006 was called "Sincerely, Me" and already showed great guitar work and some lovely vocals.  The opener "Blindly" could have been lifted from Alanis' "Jagged Little Pill", while "Next To Me" is very melancholic and shows a little more of Kina's vocal range. "Highlighted In Green" is an upbeat poppy track with a nice little wah wah guitar riff and catchy chorus.  A very interesting debut from the lady with promise of what's to come.



The first proper album, also released in 2006 was entitled "One More In The Attic".  "Why Can't I?" is like a hybrid of Cyndi Lauper/Alanis and is a lilting, atmospheric track which showcases the strength of Kina's vocal when heard almost alone.  "Running Away" is a gorgeous emotive ballad and "Missing" is an Acoustic number which give a nice "live" feeling in a small theatre.  "What Is Said" is an almost Country number.  The album shows her confidence in trying new things even at this early stage of her career.

The last of the trio of recording sets of 2006 came in the form of "In Memory Of The Singing Bridge".  This album wasn't wholly slow, emotive numbers like the previous two track lists.  "Walk On" and "Too Soon" are very sweet Pop/Country while "Don't Cry" is an experimental track that is strangely engaging, with the unusual guitar playing and vocals that normally wouldn't match but they work.  "Memory" is quite a nice ending to the album, reminiscent of Tori Amos. 



The first album to have more than 9 tracks was released in 2010, "Stairwells", this was the album that escalated Kina's popularity and lifted her career to new heights.  It debuted at #139 on the Billboard 200 and also #5 on the Billboard Top Internet Album Chart.  Included in this set was the first single "Message From Your Heart", a gorgeous song in the vein of The Bangles, light and poppy.  "Valentine" is another Pop/Country cutesy foot tapper, and "It's Love" is a sweet, whimsical number that will give you a nice, warm feeling inside.  "Stars Falling Down" and "Without Me" are two more brilliant Pop/Rock songs akin to The Bangles. Bright and catchy choruses and a more mature sounding Kina Grannis fills this album. 

After releasing a live album the following year called "The Living Room Sessions", Kina has just released "Elements" in 2014.  It contains the previously mentioned "The Fire" which I totally love.  "Winter" is a very atmospheric and emotive song with signs of Alanis again but beautifully crafted.  "Oh Father" is simply gorgeous and reminds me of Tori Amos at her most open and dark phases.  "Throw It Away" gives a feeling of the 60s psychedelic age and "Dear River" has a Simon & Garfunkel backdrop and has a nice 70s feel.  I am surprised I haven't heard of this lady before now, she is a great talent!




Check out some of these tracks to hear the very talented Kina Grannis -

"Blindly", "Next To Me", "Highlighted In Green", "Another Day", "Try".
(From "Sincerely, Me").
"Why Can't I?", "Running Away", "Missing", "What Is Said", "In Theory".
(From "One More In The Attic").
"Walk On", "Too Soon", "Don't Cry", "Memory", "Breathe Honestly".
(From "In Memory Of The Singing Bridge").
"Message From Your Heart", "Valentine", "It's Love", "Stars Falling Down", "Without Me".
(From "Stairwells").
"The Fire", "Winter", "Oh Father", "Throw It Away", "Dear River".
(From "Elements").









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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

80s ALBUM FILLERS OR POTENTIAL SINGLES PART 6: ERASURE

This is a new series, I will listen to all the 80s albums released by the decade's artists and judge the songs that were not singles (in the UK) from an album.  I will give my opinion whether the remaining songs were just fillers or could have been singles.  How many singles I can find will determine the final rating of how good the album is as a whole.  Below 49% = Poor/50-64% = Average/65-79% = Very Good/80-100% = Excellent.  There will be a different artist each blog.  I am a big fan of all the artists I review in this series, so I have to think hard if the song would wow the chart public, even if they are my favourite songs!

PART 6: ERASURE


Members - Vince Clark(Synthesizer/Keyboards/Guitar/Violin/Piano/Bass/Mandolin/Melodica/Vocals)/ Andy Bell (Vocals).

WONDERLAND (#71) (1986) -
Tracks -
Who Needs Love Like That/Reunion/Cry So Easy/Push Me Shove Me/Heavenly Action/Say What/Love Is A Loser/Senseless/My Heart...So Blue/Oh L'amour/Pistol.

Singles -
Who Needs Love Like That (#55)/Heavenly Action (#100)/Oh L'amour (#85).

Potential Singles -
Reunion - Sing along chorus, lovely melodies, repetitive but very catchy!
Cry So Easy - The closest Vince and Andy got to a power ballad, really nice melodies again, lovely tune.
My Heart...So Blue - Gorgeous song, brilliant lyrics and very emotive, classic Erasure ballad.

Fillers -
Push Me Shove Me (Not a great track, a little bit bland and too long)/Say What (A hint of Swing but seems a little confused at what its supposed to be to me)/Love Is A Loser (Sounds like its been made on a Stylophone by two rookie kids, a bit simple but the "dancing across the nation" almost lifted it to a good S Club 7 song)/Senseless (Doesn't grab my attention at all, similar all the way through)/Pistol (Not great lyrically or musically).

FINAL ALBUM RATING -
Average album! 6 singles from 11 tracks.  54.5/100.






THE CIRCUS (#6) (1987) -

Tracks -
It Doesn't Have To Be/Hideaway/Don't Dance/If I Could/Sexuality/Victim Of Love/Leave Me To Bleed/Sometimes/The Circus/Spiralling.

Singles -
Sometimes (#2)/It Doesn't Have To Be (#12)/The Circus (#6)/Victim Of Love (#7).

Potential Singles -
If I Could - Has enough nice sentiment about making the world a better place and a nice melodious backing track to make this a hit.

Filler -
Hideaway (Atmospheric but little to grab a singles buying public)/Don't Dance (Kind of meanders along with no real kick, even in the chorus)/Sexuality (I quite like this song, but maybe wouldn't get the radio friendly vote)/Leave Me To Bleed (A bit of a mish mash)/Spiralling (Nowhere near catchy enough or emotive enough to be a hit).

FINAL ALBUM RATING -
Average album! 5 singles from 11 tracks.  50/100.







THE INNOCENTS (#1) (1988) -

Tracks -
A Little Respect/Ship Of Fools/Phantom Bride/Chains Of Love/Hallowed Ground/Sixty-Five Thousand/Heart Of Stone/Yahoo!/Imagination/Witch In the Ditch/Weight Of The World/When I Needed You/River Deep, Mountain High.

Singles -
Ship Of Fools (#6)/Chains Of Love (#11)/A Little Respect (#4).

Potential Singles -
Phantom Bride - Catchy, bright electronic pop, perfect 80s hit!
Heart Of Stone - Classic Erasure, catchy chorus, foot tapping electronic pop.
Yahoo! - Love this, I think a proper Gospel choir on the chorus would be brilliant, bright, breezy and giving off positive vibes.
Imagination - The repeated chorus carries this, not a favourite of mine though but I can see the possibilities.
When I Needed You - Beautiful lilting song, emotion driven.

Fillers -
Hallowed Ground (A nice song, well constructed but not a hit single)/Sixty-Five Thousand (Instrumental, almost jazzy detective show soundtrack)/Witch In The Ditch (Reminding me of a school assembly song, bland)/Weight Of The World (Tries so hard to get that kick but doesn't quite make it)/River Deep, Mountain High (Close to being the worst version I've heard of this classic, sorry guys!).

FINAL ALBUM RATING -
Average album!  8 singles from 13 tracks.  61.5/100.


WILD! (#1) (1989) -

Tracks -
Piano Song (Instrumental)/Blue Savannah/Drama/How Many Times?/Star/La Gloria/You Surround Me/Brother And Sister/2000 Miles/Crown Of Thorns/Piano Song.

Singles -
Drama (#4)/You Surround Me (#15)/Blue Savannah (#3)/Star (#11).

Potential Singles -
2000 Miles - has enough to carry this, but not a great Erasure track, this album for me is a disappointment and this is the best track which sums that feeling up.

Fillers -
Piano Song (Instrumental) (1 minute instrumental, obviously not a hit single)/How Many Times (Drifts along nicely but has nothing to grab your attention)/La Gloria (Not good at all, the "accent" Andy is giving only adds to the drabness of this song, was probably a good idea at the time!)/Brother And Sister (Tries to be a theatre produced concert song, doesn't work at all)/Crown Of Thorns (Atmospheric, but the Erasure electronic pop "hit" seems to have disappeared)/Piano Song (A poor and slow end to a poor and slow album, sad to say).

FINAL ALBUM RATING -
Poor album! 5 singles from 11 tracks.  45.5/100.



My favourite 80s Erasure tracks?

Top 20 in no particular order -

1    Sometimes
2    The Circus
3    Ship Of Fools
4    Chains Of Love
5    A Little Respect
6    Hallowed Ground
7    Heart Of Stone
8    Yahoo!
9    It Doesn't Have To Be
10  Victim Of Love
11  Reunion
12  My Heart...So Blue
13  Drama
14  Blue Savannah
15  Who Needs Love Like That
16  If I Could
17  Cry So Easy
18  When I Needed You
19  Sexuality
20  Phantom Bride

Check back for another 80s artist review :)

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