Blue Hawaii Returns With Hook Heavy Pop LP ‘Tenderness’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Four years after its debut album, electronica duo Blue Hawaii returns with Tenderness, a hook-heavy pop album packed with sweaty dance beats and sing-along choruses. Co-DJ’s Raphaelle Standell and Alexander Kirby deliver an eclectic mix of electronica where an equal amount of care is given to song and groove.

The overarching theme of Tenderness is the paradox of modern connection in the digital age, where technology allows people to be more connected than ever before but most of those connections are superficial. In particular, the album deals with the struggle to maintain relationships in an era where relationships are fragmented and multitasked.

“Free At Last” begins the album with steady thumping bass that contrasts a slower, brooding synth line. The song finds Standell singing of the liberating feeling of ending a relationship. “If that was the end I’m free at last, but I won’t feel that for a few months or so,” she sings. “For now it’s just heavy under blankets. For now it’s just alone on the sidewalk.”

After finding someone new, in “Versus Game” Standell inevitably compares her new lover to her last. “Feel in love once, forever keep on looking back,” she sings, her reverb-drenched vocals echoing over pulsating synthesizer.  The conflict is more internal in album highlight “Belong to Myself.” Over a mid-tempo groove that slowly builds to dynamic choruses, Standell thinks about her own role in failed relationships. “What if I were to say that I don’t belong to anyone? But then I don’t feel like I even belong to myself,” she sings.

In “Searching for You,” Standell sings bitterly about a lover that took advantage of her, knowing what they had wouldn’t last. “Why’d you decide to get so near when you knew you wouldn’t be there?” she asks. Two songs later in the title track, she has come to acceptance. She sings of “learning how to be alone without you and happy to be with me.”

Throughout Tenderness, Standell and Kirby lay down pounding dance beats and attention-grabbing synthesizer lines that keep the album moving forward. One of its flaws is that it relies too much on standard dance floor bass clichés, but overall the album succeeds because of its kinetic energy and Standell’s impassioned lyrics. After building up so much energy, Tenderness comes to its catharsis with an appropriately slow and soft song. The excellent “Far Away Soon” puts finger-picked acoustic guitar at the forefront rather than bass and synths. Standell sings about coming to grips with the distance in their relationship. “We’ve been away for some time and it hasn’t been a bad time, for I hold you close to me,” Standell croons.

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