Review of Tenderness' by Blue Hawai

Arbutus Records


Blue Hawaii


After four years, time apart and a lot of work on their own separate projects, Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Alex Cowan’s Blue Hawaii has released their sophomore record. Bridging the gap between house music and traditional electronic indie, the record is not only a genre-merging effort, it’s one that does so profoundly. Covering different sides of love through their concept album narrative, the record is one that will offer more than just dancing on repeat listens.

Shuffling slowly on club beats, “Free at Last” opens with a bass undertone, letting the album breathe before going deeper. As the smoky vocals cut in, there’s a jazzy tone to it all, making the track an intersection of electronica and sultry experimental sounds. Bubbling with strings and synth, “No One Like You” weaves 70s disco between its lyrics of confusing love. Endlessly catchy and bumping, the vocals by Raphaelle Standell-Preston really explode in the second half. Emulating a radio ballgame pointedly, “Pregame” is more of an intro section than anything else.

“Versus Game” follows the momentum with a hefty sense of house music rhythms, letting the vocals play against the melody. One of the most solid dance tracks, it doesn’t alienate those less familiar with house either. As the vocals explore the different sides of independence, “Belong to Myself” switches between quirky melodies and delicious poppy. While its looping lines are inherently repetitive, they’re too catchy to be annoying. “Prepare for Flight” offers another vignette of mundane life that sounds surprisingly good with a beat, splitting up the album in fun ways.

Spinning the previous beat with a warped filter, “Younger Heart,” gets really demented as its distortion and deeper vocals shock the system. Through pained vocals the cries out and brass solos offer a shattering level of emotion. “Strummin” offers a more classical interlude, as Standell-Preston goes acoustic for more intimate singing. “Make Love Stay,” lets little flickers of guitar colour their electronic drive, as they explore the ever-growing difficulties of modern love. Through its elegant composition and huge instrumental hooks, the song sounds at time like Feist built for a dance-floor.

“Big News” continues the albums narrative of the journey of love through a family voicemail, as an aunt checks in on Standell-Preston. At their most abrasive, “Blossoming from Your Shy” has Standell-Preston bringing a tip of venom to her vocals with great energy. As she explores the possible futures of her love life, she clearly seems content to let it all just happen. There’s a smooth pop-drive to “Searching For You” that rolls as easily as songs much less complex and dense than it. The weird lo-fi outro also provides an extra moment where the band replicates hilariously innocent conversations.

Seemingly subdued as it starts, “Do You Need Me” lets its quiet moments serve as the launching point for its huge dynamic screams. Going from expressive wails to harmonic vocal loops, the track is a vocal delight. “Tenderness” beats in slowly before it reaches its stride in a bouncy harmonic kick. Serving the dance crowd more than indie fans it still offers a lot of emotional punch.

Through laughs and the beeps of the Montreal subway “Giggles” offers its own bridge for a desperate seconds. Closing the album with even more warmth, “Far Away Soon” is a soft and shining acoustic track that is so haunting it melts hearts. Closing the album with its withering love and sadness, it is an appropriate summary of the sides of love the album paints.

Words by Owen Maxwell