There has been an undeniable resurgence of interest from the general public for Motown-inspired music over the last few years. From Meaghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” to the endless Sam Cooke comparisons that seem to follow Texas native Leon Bridges’ every move, the world of pop has been demanding a return to live music that people can dance to without phrases like “circle pit,” or “mosh pit,” or “bass drop” needing to be used. While the aforementioned artists no doubt have talent and hits to spare, neither has captured the whimsical and romantic notions of that era in music quite like Sargent House Records newcomers Empty Houses have on their debut album, Daydream.
Featuring vocalist Ali Shea and former Fireworks members Adam Mercer and David Mackinder, Empty Houses are a pop trio whose sound borrows from the golden age of Motown and sock hops to create a wholly unique, yet undeniably familiar sonic experience. Daydream is the culmination of the band’s existence up to this point, with ten catchy songs and astounding production from four-time Grammy winner Graham Marsh. The results of this potent combination of talent, experience, and inspiration is a dizzying ode to a time many believe to have been forgotten in the brash and overworked digital age.
The throwback sound of Empty Houses is only one half of what makes their music so infectious. The other element is something much more modern that is most likely tied to Mackinder and Mercer’s time in the worlds of pop-rock and pop-punk. The music may bring to mind a time when The Jackson 5 would perform for millions on live television (“Thunderstorms”), but the lyrics and melodies fall in line with everything the pair wrote and performed in their previous projects. Mackinder’s lyrics in particular—which speak to the feelings we all have about love, life, growing older, and finding ourselves—add that something extra to Empty Houses’ music that sets it apart from their contemporary and classic peers.
The title Daydream refers to the ability we all have to find an escape from the woes of any given day, regardless of where we may find ourselves at the time. In a way, that is exactly what Empty Houses are providing a soundtrack for on their debut release. The songs found on Daydream play like the accompaniment to life-defining moments many of us have not yet lived. Whether it be the profound romance of “Lost At Sea,” which channels a bit of Bobby Darren with a dash of modern charm, or the sultry confidence of “Rope,” each song on Daydream feels like a simple pop epic unto itself. There is an intoxicating charm to every song that makes it very easy to get lost in each verse and reborn with each chorus. You might not live a life that reflects the experiences shared on the album, but you yearn to hear more and more with each note that plays, and that desire keeps you coming back again and again.