Lahaina Sunset by Mark Riddle

A visit to Maui inspired Mark Riddle to record an exotica album with tracks inspired by his trip. Vibraphonist Riddle is also known by DigiTiki, host of the long-running Quiet Village podcast, and also by Marty Lush (ex-Tikiyaki Orchestra). Drawing inspiration from Arthur Lyman’s style and his Hawaiian Sunset Vol. 2 album, Riddle’s collection of songs will appeal to those looking for mellow melodies with lavish arrangements.

The title track blends vibraphones and ukulele and delivers a strong opening song complete with the sounds of lapping waves and birds. The mid-tempo “Road to Hana” opens with dreamy sounds that provides the listener with the feeling of entering a portal, and continues on a journey with a hypnotic driving rhythm. Several songs pay homage to Lahaina’s Japanese cultural roots by using familiar music themes and bamboo instrumentation. Of these tracks, “Evening at Hong Kong Gardens” is the most interesting, featuring intricate piano and Japanese stringed instrumentation.

“Lahaina Hula” was written as a Hula song, but the tempo is slowed down so dramatically you may not understand why it seems so familiar. The cheekily named “Tune for Crab Rangoon” is the the most traditional exotica track, with interplay between piano and vibraphone that any Martin Denny fan will love. The lone cover song is “Path of the Wind” and closes side two of the album with aplomb, though two stand-out bonus tracks are available on the digital release.

I’ve never felt that most of Arthur Lyman’s recordings were mixed properly, but there are no such flaws on Riddle’s. None of the delicate instruments are lost in the mix, nor is there too much to get in the way of the vibraphone or piano that leads the melody. Ambient sounds support the music and themes well.

Lahaina Sunset is available in several formats. Many will be drawn to the audiophile virgin vinyl LP, but a deeper drive is available via the Flash Drive version that comes with bonus tracks, music videos, behind the scenes making of videos, and a version of the album without ambient audio sounds. A faux postcard features the photo from the album on the front and a note from “Marty” on the back. There’s also an option to purchase the LP and the Flash Drive at the same time.

Lahaina Sunset is available at

Tropika by Tikiyaki Orchestra

I’m really enjoying the new album from Tikiyaki Orchestra, released earlier this month. This album is a return to form after two Tikiyaki 5-0 surf albums (which were awesome) and 2020’s Jim Bacchi solo “minus Orchestra” e.p. Sketches with Guitar and Bongos.

Tropika is sort of like a greatest hits of the Tikiyaki sound, with varied instrumentation and styles. The rock-style drums set a foundation across the record, with guitar and vibraphone taking the lead for most of the songs, perhaps most effectively with the Hawaiian swing of “A South Pacific Soujorn.” Other standout tracks include “Bombs Away!”, “The Boobam Song”, and the bouncy “Walkabout.”

For more than a decade the Tikiyaki Orchestra have the most prominent band playing exotica and tropical music, paying homage to the style’s 1950s foundations and showing that the genre is still an exciting musical form. Their energetic shows are always a hit, so be sure to seek them out if they’re appearing at club or event near you.

Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk

Fun times in downtown San Jose on a Tuesday night with the Traditional Tiki Night at Dr. Funk with DJ SamoaBoy play vintage 1960s 45s. Quite a nice mix of retro tunes, mostly upbeat and peppy to go along with seeing some of the tiki ohana at the venue. It is nice to see Dr. Funk doing some things to draw folks mid-week, and a special DJ is a great option. Drink specials would also be nice, if the good Doctor would like to write some special prescriptions.

Check the Dr. Funk social accounts for future special events such as this.

I enjoyed the Three Dots & a Dash, prepared expertly by resident master bartender Paul McCoun. The Mai Tai, of course, was also quite on point. Mrs. Mai Tai really dug the Vacation in Valhalla with Venus Gin Aquavit, Apis Kurpiowski Honey Mead, RumHaven Coconut, lemon, Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters. I thought it was pretty great, too.

Goodbye Forbidden Island Jukebox

The merch display looks great and I understand maybe the jukebox wasn’t working great anymore, but I’m super bummed it’s gone. Used to love to be able to go to Forbidden Island and play some music I wanted to hear. And the best part was that it didn’t cost anything to make your music selections.

Also, the green B-Rex glass is a perfect size for rum sips with big ice cubes, or for smaller tropicals with modest amount of ice. And the design is cool. Grab it before it’s gone.

The Surfrajettes Live in San Jose

Had a great time at The Surfrajettes show at The Ritz in San Jose last night. The show opened with Frankie and Pool Boys who put on a credible and energetic set.

The Surfrajettes had a long headliner set including many of their past singles as well as tracks from their new album Roller Fink. The band is well-practiced and sounded great, mixing classic surf covers such as “Penetration” along with their spin on classic songs such as “She Loves You” and “Heart of Glass.” I like the covers but prefer their original tracks such as “Party Line” and “Couch Surfing.” 

I was impressed by Sam Maloney’s wild drumming and lead guitarist Nicole Damoff’s bluesy solos. Damoff also served as the M.C., engaging the audience in between songs with song introductions and such.

The Surfrajettes are playing a bunch of shows this week leading to Tiki Oasis, and have additional dates in Texas and in the midwest later in the month. Be sure to check them out if they’re coming to your town.

Exotica Moderne Issue 16

The new issue of Exotica Moderne is now out, featuring several contributions from me.

  • Music review of the new mini-album from Vancouver surf band The Hang-Ten Hangmen
  • Cocktail recipe: London Dry Spin
  • Feature article: Why the 1944 Mai Tai Isn’t “the 1944 Mai Tai”

There’s lots of great material in the rest of the issue, as always, so be sure to order a copy before they’re gone.

Purchase Exotica Moderne 16 from House of Tabu