Blue Hawaii

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Tenderness Review

by Heather Phares

Relationship status has always been a significant part of Blue Hawaii's music. On Untogether, Raphaelle Standell-Preston and Alexander Cowan turned their romantic breakup into affecting, forward-thinking electro-pop. On Tenderness, they use the end of Standell-Preston's online relationship as the inspiration for songs about the ease -- and difficulties -- of feeling close to someone far away. Even though the album's concept emphasizes emotional and mental connections, its music feels more physical. Tenderness sounds bigger, bolder, and more sensual than Blue Hawaii's previous work, thanks to the duo's embrace of house, disco, and '90s dance music. Nowhere is this clearer or more irresistible than on "No One Like You," where giddy, disco-tinged strings and beats capture the thrill of being head-over-heels. Elsewhere, Cowan and Standell-Preston channel Everything But the Girl on "Versus Game"'s smooth yearning and borrow trip-hop's mournful lushness on "Younger Heart" and "Make Love Stay" to convey Tenderness' emotional arc. To chart these wide-ranging moods, Blue Hawaii use every tool at their disposal, including sound collages and interludes that heighten the album's immersive quality; "Big News" is a voicemail from Standell-Preston's aunt that approaches Tenderness' theme of seeking connections through technology from a different, and endearing, standpoint. As Blue Hawaii take listeners on the journey from "Free at Last"'s burst of liberation to the doubt and uncertainty of "Belong to Myself" and "Blossoming from Your Shy" to the title track's joyous acceptance, they balance their impressionistic past with a newfound immediacy. Likewise, Tenderness is of its time and a document of the eternal search for a true relationship -- whether that's with someone else or one's self.

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