Sound — 8
This is the re-release of Kina's 2010 independent effort. This time around it was released on small record label One Haven. It has 4 new songs, remixes of old songs and - if you buy the deluxe version - three studio covers of songs she has done on YouTube. So for a bit of Kina back story; she was first brought to light in 2008's Crash The Superbowl contest run by doritos. Her music video for 'Message From Your Heart' was run in the commercial break winning her a record deal with interscope records. She later walked away from this deal as she wanted complete creative control over her music. She released the first version of Stairwells in February 2010 independently. It charted on the Billboard top 200. She signed a deal with One Haven records in 2010 and went on to re-release this album with the additional extras! I was a huge fan of the original Stairwells (lets call this V1 or the sake of ease!) and it was probably my favourite album of last year so, obviously, I was excited to hear this version (V2!). Kina's acoustic, folk-pop style is right on the money nowadays with people like Colbie Caillat, Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles running along the same lines. Her music is mostly acoustic guitar based, although piano features as the main instrument in a few tracks. Other instruments used on this album include bass, drums, strings, ukulele, glockenspiel and a lot of hand-claps! Kina has a great vocal range and has some real power behind her voice, although she seems to stick to the honey sweet tones most of the time. Songs like 'Without Me' and 'The Goldfish Song' showcase both of these well. He harmonies are also notable. I often find myself being draw in to listening only to the harmonies rather than the main vocal (that may just be me who does that!!), they are enchanting and beautiful. 'The One you Say Goodnight To' and 'It's Love' are great examples of this. There is a good balance of up-beat and slower songs and the album leaves you feeling relaxed yet refreshed, happy yet thoughtful and thoroughly content! Overall, I can't really fault the sound of the album other than I wish there were more of the 'Without Me' variety and less of the 'Stars Falling Down'. Only because I think her voice is really incredible and it would be great to her more of the power that she shows in 'Without Me' rather than sticking to her comfortable soft tones.
Lyrics — 9
Kina is a great lyricist. She has the ability to relate to pretty much anybody with her songs. From the refreshingly optimistic 'Valentine' to the melancholic 'Delicate', every song is exceptionally well written. A personal favourite has to be the line 'people try to find reasons why things aren't perfect, fight to deny every smile they're deserving' from 'It's Love'. Along with 'you say I should be better and educate me on my flaws' from 'Without Me'. Her lyrics are always honest and she sings from the heart. You can hear the raw emotion in her voice in many songs, especially 'Delicate' and 'The Goldfish Song' (which is in-fact not about a goldfish, but rather becoming a better person and the journey to get there). Her melodies may be simple but they fit her soft sound well. Many of the tracks are incredibly catchy and you'll find yourself singing them all day (which can actually get quite annoying after a while!). 'The One You Say Goodnight To', 'Message From Your Heart' and 'In Your Arms' are particular examples of this! Her voice and vocal style fits well with her songs and creates a great sound, most similar to that of Colbie Caillat I think. The one downfall is the overuse of the word love! This was one thing that I noticed while listening to the album. The chorus of three of the songs consists almost entirely of said word ('Valentine', 'Stars Falling Down' and 'Its Love'), and it can get a little tiresome. But that said, its a very impressive effort from Kina who wrote the entire album herself ('Back To Us' on the deluxe version was co-written).
Overall Impression — 8
This is one of my favourite albums of all time. Other than the few mentioned points I can't really fault it. If I really had to pick, I suppose my top 3 songs would have to be 'Without Me', 'It's Love' and 'Delicate'. All three have great lyrics and melodies and enchanting harmonies, which you can't help but love (or at least I can't)!! I would say my least favourite is 'Stars Falling Down', I find the chorus repetitive and the 'doo-doo's' in the background quite irritating. The album is almost perfect apart from this song. I would have much preferred a song like 'Give Me Back' or 'These Magnet Hearts' to make the album cut in the place of this song. Aside from that, the album is a great feel-good record. Its perfect for hot summer days and cold winter nights alike. Kina's voice is warm and pleasant and her music is the perfect balance between optimistic and relaxed. I would definitely recommend this album if you're a fan of this genre or of any of the above mentioned artists. Kina is well on her way to success and this is a great first (non-independent) effort. The new tracks ('Gone', 'It's Love', 'The One You Say Goodnight To' and 'Without Me') are a great addition to what was already a great album. I would definitely advise buying the deluxe version of the album so as not to miss out on gems like 'Strong Enough' and the wonderful 'Stay Just A Little', as well as the new covers ('Disturbia', 'Sounds Of Silence' and 'White Winter Hymnal'). I would replace this album in a second if it were ever lost or stolen, it is a must have for anyone. Lastly, if you're one of those who had V1and doesn't know whether to buy V2...DO! Its greatly improved and the remastered versions of 'World In Front Of Me' and 'Strong Enough' are great! Its definitely worth buying!