By focusing on simple, straightforward arrangements and melancholic pop melodies, Kina Grannis cracked the Billboard charts in 2010 with this full-length release. Stairwells is her first album since 2008, the year Grannis won a Superbowl songwriting contest and claimed an Interscope recording contract as her prize. Although she left the label one year later without releasing any material, Grannis’ time at Interscope was apparently still influential, and Stairwells shows strong similarities to albums by Vanessa Carlton, Michelle Branch, and other hitmakers. Grannis sings her love songs with breezy grace, occasionally backing her vocals with strings, but more often sticking to light percussion and acoustic guitar chords. When she’s at her most intriguing, she mixes Top 40 melodies with a sense of coffee house ambiance, and her status as an independent musician -- one who spent two years recording this album on her own dime -- sweetens the deal. Stairwells still sounds overwhelmingly familiar, as Grannis does little to distinguish herself from the artists that influenced her, but it's a pleasant listen regardless.
AllMusic Review by Andrew Leahey