A vacation in America's 50th state led to this Seattle indie rocker's obsession with ukuleles, slack key guitars and breezy harmonies...no word on whether he's performing in a grass skirt.
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?