The sophomore long-player from enterprising West Coast folk-pop confectioner Kina Grannis, Elements treads familiar singer/songwriter-occupied waters, but Grannis' expressive voice, penchant for evocative yet unfussy arrangements, and independent spirit help elevate the 12-song collection above some of the usual genre trappings. Produced by Matt Hales (aka Aqualung), Elements is an altogether more confident beast than 2011's Stairwells, but it retains all of the disarming sweetness and convivial albeit melancholic coffeehouse atmosphere that made her debut so easy to digest. Front-loaded with its two best cuts, the soulful "Dear River" and the equally emotive and radio-ready "The Fire," Elements is more or less evenly split between percussive, midtempo indie folk anthems that bring to mind a stripped-down Florence + the Machine or Sara Bareilles, and quiet, heartfelt, rainy day windowsill transmissions like "My Dear," "Forever Blue," and the lovely "Little Worrier" that evoke the more plaintive sides of folk-pop contemporaries like Christina Perri, Regina Spektor, and Tegan and Sara. Melodically, Grannis keeps things largely neutral and major (the brooding, Jeff Buckley-esque chamber pop on the bluesy "Throw It Away" notwithstanding), which helps in maintaining the record's universal appeal, and while the middle of Elements is a tad too mired in syrup-slow balladry and confessional singer/songwriter lyrical tropes, there's enough variation overall to earn Grannis' more than just a cursory nod from potential listeners, and plenty of heartache-spurned, homespun warmth to keep her increasingly devoted fan base comfortable until the next go-round. ~ James Christopher Monger
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