Your debut album is a big deal. It's your grand thesis statement to the world, the who/what/why behind your existence as an artist. San Francisco producer Gryffin broke through in 2016 with "Heading Home." It was a powerful, infectious bit of starry-eyed fun built on weighty piano chords, finger snaps and singer Josef Salvat's throaty cries. It was a banger and a ballad all at once.
Three years later, the man born Dan Griffith has done a lot of learning. His lofty sound is loftier, his production clean as the autumn air it rings into. The drama is heavier, the composition a layered mix of orchestration, acoustic instruments and synthesized atmopshere. On Gravity, Gryffin's debut album out now on Darkroom/Geffen, the sound is all grown up, but you don't have to try hard to hear the spirit of his earliest tunes.
"Since I began the Gryffin project," he tweets, "I’ve wanted to create uplifting emotional dance music and this album is my representation of that over the last two years. Thank you all for supporting me and letting me do what I love."
Gravity is no slouch starter pack. It's 16 tracks aren't simply a collection of pre-released singles capturing the hits of a rising star. The producer spent a lot of time honing this project, and while he did release a Gravyity Pt. 1 EP in December of 2018, it's clear he took the task seriously along the way.
The album is stacked with star collaborators, from fellow dance artists Slander, Gorgon City, Seven Lions and Droeloe, to big pop players Carly Rae Jepsen, AlunaGeorge, Aloe Blacc and Elley Duhé. It's heavy on the dance-pop side of the spectrum, but there are plenty of fun twists. "Remember" with Zohara is a classic big room vibe, while the pair's second collab "Out Of My Mind" plays pretty over trap-inspired percussion.
"If I Left The World" brings an intimate softness to an arena ballad beat, and "Baggage" with AluneGeorge and Gorgon City is characteristically tinged with UK garage groove. "OMG" with Carly Rae is still a clear standout, but closer "Nobody Compares To You" with Katie Pearlman brings the album home in a big, warm rush that typifies the big feelings Gryffin is all about.
Dance pop is not a new phenomenon, but Gryffin's Gravity debut is a beautiful, easy synthesis of the scene's juciest bites. It plays ripe with care and emotion even as it hits faithful tropes, and the artist brings similar attention to the live performance, for which he's currently running a second leg. Surely, the remaining shows will be reinvigorated with the energy of the official release.
Gravity is out now on Darkroom/Geffen. Listen to it in full below.