The third time through Hawaii 13, I threw up my hands. If I was missing something from The Green's newest release, I wasn't going to find it with the disc on repeat. By any measure, the Hawaiian sextet is well-loved; past accolades include "Reggae Album of the Year" on iTunes and the top spot on Billboard's reggae chart. Praise for Hawaii 13 is ubiquitous. But it's lost on me. After giving the album a thorough go, my favorite tracks remain the traditional Hawaiian chants that bookend it. In fact, the only song that stuck in my head was the swooning "Chocolate & Roses," a tune that has more business on an R. Kelly album than a reggae release.
Good reggae burrows deep. Like an earworm, it keeps you dancing on memory alone. I don't have a single gripe about the crafting of Hawaii 13it's tight, well-produced, and diverse—but it's too poppy and too innocuous to give birth to perpetual motion. The best songs on the album, "Even Before" and "Power in the Words," come closest to working. But in the end, the band is so concerned with carefree days that it never takes up more than half of your attention. And perhaps that's just it: Hawaiian reggae is, by and large, meant to be enjoyed with ocean sunsets and sand underfoot. Hawaii 13 does Hawaiian reggae well—maybe too well for those of us who prefer dub to Don Ho.
The Green plays the Top Hat Mon., Nov. 18, at 9 PM. $20/$18 plus fees in advance tophatlounge.com and Rockin Rudy's.