learning love songs

est. 2008


Empty Houses


Made a list of my favorite albums of the year so far. Everybody else is doing it! Went with 11 instead of 10, because all of these albums have been really great to listen to in my mind. My biggest impression: The alt-rock offerings this year are truly profound and poignant albums, and the alt-country/folk female contingent is killing it.

Also, with upcoming scheduled releases from the likes of Moose Blood, Blind Pilot, Angel Olson, Local Natives, Taking Back Sunday, Yellowcard and hell, maybe even Brand New, a year-end list will prove to be quite competitive.

  1. The Hotelier – Goodness
  2. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
  3. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs
  4. Pinegrove – Cardinal
  5. Deftones – Gore
  6. Brian Fallon – Painkillers
  7. Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
  8. Empty Houses – Daydream
  9. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
  10. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are beautiful yet so unaware of it
  11. Daughter – Not to Disappear

Special shout-out to “Best Kept Secret” for being my new favorite song about California and featuring beautiful Chinese strings.

Merits more listens/honorable mentions:
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
letlive. – If I’m the Devil…
Panic! At the Disco- Death of a Bachelor
Beyonce – Lemonade
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
Sara Watkins – Young In All The Wrong Ways
Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
Thrice – To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere
Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat

“I talked about my misery, you called it pain of pain
How we light a pile on until we go insane
‘Til we go insane
Until we go insane
You’re the best kept secret in Silver Lake.”
~Best Kept Secret
case/lang/veirs, case/lang/veirs


“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.”
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.

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