“Ten feet to the sky
Feeling inside
Nothing will save me
I’ve gotta save myself

Water’s creeping in
It’s darker that it’s been
Seems like nothing’s left out there
But a scratching call
Like it’s worth seeing the ground again.

Keep hanging on.
I know I’ll get there some day
I’ll be free of this some way
But I’m doing what I can
I don’t need a rope anymore.”
~Rope
Empty Houses, Daydream

Finding the right new record is an important rite of passage for the start of summertime, even in the land of endless sea and sun. Answering this call at the ready is “Daydream,” the full-length debut from Detroit-based Empty Houses and one of the most feel-good albums I’ve heard this year.

The first thing you hear are the charming overtones of Motown 60s soul girl groups, with lead singer Ali Shea’s magnificent, soulful alto and plenty of jingle bell auxiliary serving up Wall-of-Sound flavors for the Pro Tools age. But track after track reveals reliably deep guitar grooves and catchy melodies, and the listener realizes that the retro influence is far from a trope but a trained and honed sound on behalf of all the band members. Beyond that, it’s just pure fun — and music is supposed to be fun, right?

“Daydream” rips through 10 tracks in about 30 minutes, a perfect set time full of dance-worthy breaks and funky riffs. But what I like most about their sound is despite all their pep, Empty Houses isn’t about bubble gum. Many of Shea’s sentiments are heartsick and full of regret, wondering how a love went wrong or pushing it aside to see the start of a new day. Their ballads, in particular “Every Word,” are powerful piano-fueled tracks suitable to soundtrack an evening in or a drive down the coast. By and large, though, “Daydream” is an up-tempo record packed with attitude, and it falls into one of my favorite genres: happy-sounding music for sad and ponderous people.