In the Waiting by Kina Grannis
KG Records (2018)
There was a time when there seemed to be something new to talk about from Kina Grannis just about every week. While she has remained engaged with her rabid fanbase on seemingly a daily basis, these last few years have seemed pretty close to event-free. So it was something of a surprise when her new album, In the Waiting, was finally available for preorders, despite regular tweets about personal songwriting retreats and informal surveys about where she should take her next tour. A whole studio album for the first time in four years.
You know how much stuff happens in four years? A lot, including a hundred days’ detainment by the Indonesian government during which Kina and three tour companions were forbidden from publicly communicating their situation. Stuck in a hotel where she didn’t know their status on any given day, she wrote two songs appearing on this album, “California” and “For Now.” If you’re a fan and you haven’t read her story, you really must. It’s pretty horrible.
You calling me back to your side
My new album In The Waiting is now out worldwide!! 🎉😭 I’ve been saving this photo for a moment that rivals the complete and utter joy I was filled with while holding this baby raccoon, and that moment is now! Listen here: https://t.co/K4OrNmm4VT pic.twitter.com/eBnOEnVlvj
— kina grannis (@kinagrannis) June 29, 2018
I listen again for your song
There was a delay with physical CD shipments (this has been happening to me a lot lately), so I’ll add album credits later.
I am open, I am ready
There’s no question that Kina has purposely reframed herself for her audience over the years, and while I’m here for that, I admit it’s been an adjustment for me. The Kina you and I fell in love with isn’t musically the Kina we get on this album. She long ago shed any hint of coyness, and while she can certainly still present as sweet and sincere, her childlike playfulness is gone, quite possibly for good. It’s okay. It makes sense. It happens to us all, as I suppose it must.
So what we have here is undoubtedly the same musician, just in a different place and time. And this Kina is mellow. Wistful. Pensive. Cautious, almost, stepping softly but determinedly through some tricky emotional ground. Seriously, every track feels like a meditation on some daily, heart-squeezing near-paralysis. “Beth,” my favorite song on the album, starts like this:
Beth, rest, you are on top of the world
Yet you disagree
And it’s too long, longing for something to give
When the taking is free
And it’s not in the way that you said your goodbye
Not in the way that you laughed
And it’s not in the way that you started to cry
When you heard that the worst part had passed
and it doesn’t get any easier to deal with. Kina’s bravery as a lyricist is admirable, and I imagine I’m not the only one wishing I could reach out to the personae in these songs and buy them some ice cream. Between tracks, my heart still begs her to jump up and sing “Message from Your Heart” next, but this album’s not the place for that kind exuberance.
This is not to say the album lacks lightness. “California” is waltz-like and dreamy, while “For You” is driven mostly by quick fingerpicking on an acoustic guitar, the most reminiscent of earlier Kina songs. You could almost float away on it, if it weren’t so sad!
It’s a solid album, but not everything is a viral video made with a hundred thousand jellybeans in stop-motion animation, and the songs here probably don’t quite have this kind of holy-molyness. On each of her previous albums and EPs, I texted friends to say hey you gotta hear this song from the new Kina album and oh yeah hear this one too. That may not happen for many of us on this one, and that feels appropriate. It’s so darn personal.
I know nothing but the meaning
The ones that I am missing
If you somehow have never seen Kina’s “In Your Arms” video, you need to see it now. And if you have, you know you want to see it again. Third-best video of all time behind A-Ha’s “Take on Me” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”