Blue Hawaii: Untogether

Blue Hawaii is Raphaelle Standell-Preston (also of Braids) and Alexander "Agor" Cowan. The couple met in 2009 and spent the summer of 2010 traveling around Central America together. Upon their return to Montreal, Canada, they quickly released an EP inspired by their travels. Blooming Summer, while a particularly interesting and enjoyable addition to the electro-pop genre, seemed to go largely unnoticed after its release. It could be because they were just the slightest bit ahead of their time.

Blue Hawaii in a field - photo by Marilis Cardinal

The electro-pop scene blew up very soon after that and we're still seeing dozens of new duos every week vying for likes, shares and plays. It was also around this time that fellow Montreal musician Grimes started to get noticed and helped to pull the spotlight over in their direction.

Blooming Summer touched on the joys as well as the fears of the couple's new relationship and managed to keep a happier, poppy sound throughout. Continuing in that lyrical vein, Untogether sounds more disjointed and haphazardly put together. That is, only for a brief first listen. The album's complexity does reveals the intricacies of their relationship and how they shared feelings of drifting apart as a band (not romantically, as they're still together). However, there's a redeeming beauty to experience in the way that Standell-Preston's diaphanous vocals mix with Cowan's warm yet driving beats and rhythms.

Use the Spotify player below to listen to Untogether and then we'll break it down. If you like the album and want to support the artists, consider purchasing Untogether on Amazon or downloading the album on iTunes.

At the time this album was written, the couple had feelings of being pulled in many other directions. They knew they needed to finish the album, but they wanted to tour, travel, and play shows. These feelings manifested into an air of restraint that is evident when listening to the album. Will the beat drop here? Nope. How about now? Uh-uh. And all of sudden they take you to an entirely different place than you expected. However, you still feel a rightness about that place despite the fact that it crept up on you with such subtlety.

Blue Hawaii - Standell-Preston singing

This album has a fluidity that washes over you like warm waves, panning left and right, then settling all around you in rich tones and sparkly highlights. Just listening to Follow, the first track, you rise and fall with the builds and patiently wait for that beat. Patient, being the key word. Then, just like that, it fades away, drawing it's surrounding feel from your head, through your chest, and then down your legs. Like an ocean tide, pulling at your toes, inviting you back into familiar surrounding waters.

Try To Be, begins with a simple guitar line as Raph sings of dreams, possibly turned to nightmares, that follow her. She's finally coming to realize that she will never be what she had once thought, and has decided that the best thing to do is to just be fully who she is. With a stutter and yet a tinge of resolve, she repeatedly sings "May as well just be me".

Blue Hawaii on the street - Photo by Travis Gillett

In Two flows right into In Two II, so be sure to listen to them as a complete package. These songs continue the theme of struggle in relationships and the difficulty of choosing between others and self. A few other tracks worth noting are Sierra Lift, Daisy, and Flammarion. At times, the vocals can feel choppy, but there's a definite sense of emotion beneath the surface. I suppose the choppiness helps to emphasize the unrest in their lyrics.

Raph and Cowan have continued to release singles for different mix tapes, but they have also recently released a collection of songs called Agor Edits. You can check them out using the SoundCloud player below.

Finally, if you want to see how they perform live, check out the video below from their 2014 studio performance at KEXP. They play some new songs and rework a few from their Untogether album. It's a fascinating thing to watch duos like this perform with boards and computers, but without any actual instruments.

Official sites for Blue Hawaii