Don Ho for indie kids!
Some people buy coffee mugs or tee-shirts to commemorate trips to Hawaii. Jason Holstrom returned from a trip with island sounds tucked into his suitcase—ukulele, slack key guitar, gentle harmonies and the rush of the waves on sunny sands. He spent three years obsessing over these delicate, breezy sounds, working in a bedroom recording studio to capture them on tape. The result is Thieves of Kailua, a 14-song evocation of beachside euphoria, limned in acoustic guitar licks and wordless harmonies, shuffling rhythms and twanging slides. Moreover, it’s no novelty album, but rather a fairly subtle piece of work, as Holstrom slips island sounds and samples cleanly into indie pop melodies without a hint of forced connections. Instrumental “Return of the Tourist” has bit of surf twang, only the wavery bent notes near the end giving a hint of its exotic inspiration. And “Waikiki Serenade” is almost as pretty and relaxing as a long weekend in Waikiki, with its sleepy strummed guitars and ghostly nonverbal vocals. Not that all is paradise…even in paradise. The Beach Boy-ish title track commemorates holiday petty larceny in ebullient, multi-vocaled style. There’s a giddy lift even to verses about locals who “take the things they/don’t belong to/from the tourists/of Oahu”, a sense of headlong vacation-only bliss. What’s the loss of a camera, when you come back with a record this pretty and uplifting?