CD Review

Jason Holstrom, The Thieves of Kailua (Mill Pond)

While making this record, Jason Holstrom immersed himself so deeply in blissful Hawaiian vibes that he dubbed his Seattle bedroom studio "The Cabana." He convinces us almost as easily, stacking airy harmonies over plucky ukulele and assorted Polynesian flavors. The first part of "Welcome—Clouds Roll In" could easily be the song locals sing to travelers stepping off planes at Honolulu International.

That Holstrom cut his teeth on dance-y indie rock—he co-founded the ultra-fun United State of Electronica—makes his foray into beach balladry a bit out of left field [Although not if you know his other band, Wonderful. —ed.]. But this is as much a valentine as a voyage, and he's clearly been nursing a crush on Hawaii for a long time. Maybe that's why this album works so well. Or maybe it's his sure grasp of catchy pop and a genuinely interesting story arc involving a waylaid tourist and his run-ins with love and the eponymous pickpockets.

Either way, The Thieves of Kailua breezes by like a happy daydream, whether the mood is upbeat or downcast. (Even a rainy day is lovely in Hawaii.) "Age Is in Ya Head!" is a giddy romp that could be licensed by a tourism agency, and the following "Do What Just You Do Me," despite its iffy use of dialect, is cuddly and relaxed. It's followed by the palate-cleansing instrumental "Waikiki Serenade—Crystal Blue," a two-in-one number with a shimmer of surrealism.

Like any vacation, the album must end, and Holstrom stretches his farewell from the wistful "Hawaii She Calls" to the more acceptant "Hula-Bye." It may read like a recipe for kitsch, but the guy's lust for island sun and sea air is too contagious to feel contrived. It may even send folks digging for more Hawaiian records in the future, which would surely warm Holstrom's heart.

 
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