Review: Empty Houses – Empty Houses EP

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There is something immediately noticeable about Empty Houses that makes it hypnotic, but its hard to place exactly. It could be the throwback factor about not hearing motown music regularly. It could be the simplified, majestic jazz version of Fireworks that makes you want to dance. The obvious one though is the soulful commanding voice of singer Ali Shea, who steals the show and makes the EP her own. If the self titled EP is anything to be taken seriously, Empty Houses are poised to potentially dominate the world should they get the backing that they deserve.

Empty Houses is the brainchild of pop punk staple Fireworks’ vocalist David Mackinder, touring member Adam Mercer and singer Ali Shea. The EP stands as something that is on a short list of releases that actually make me mad because it ends far too quickly. The musicianship is stripped down, allowing each instrument to shine to the forefront and Shea’s voice bleeds soul and croons perfectly. I need more.

Mackinder and Mercer play beautifully. They’re a perfect throwback sound that would’ve fit in easily as some of the best music of the motown movement fifty years ago. The melodies aren’t overly complicated, but layered enough to sound fully fleshed out. While I wouldn’t have noticed it without already knowing, there is a level of Fireworks-style of flare to the song writing (vocal melody and bass line, specifically) that helps the music pop even more.

For only having two musicians, the duo work masterfully. Two guitars trade riffs and change tempo to work softly as well as they do to make you want to dance. The bass pushes the songs along almost more than anything else, and has some incredible riffs. One of the best additions is the precise thunder of the drums, which really improves the classic motown sound and makes it sound modern. Mackinder, as a background vocalist, is a perfect match to harmonize with Ali.

I am in love with Ali Shea. From what I can tell, this is her first real musical venture, and the fact that her name isn’t already known is something short of a travesty. Her voice is utterly dripping with soul. She entrances the listener with soft crooning before exploding to hit higher notes, and making it sound miraculously simple. To put it in perspective, she sounds like a mixture of Zoey Deschanel of She & Him and Adele, but with a tone of more honey and conversation. I could literally listen to her for days.

Lyrically, Empty Houses is a pop album through and through. There isn’t any of the philosophy of Fireworks to be found, but that doesn’t mean things are simple. The songs are about lost love, and fit perfectly to Shea’s voice. There is a definite weight even to pop lyrics such as “I had this comfort built up inside that was a good place for me to hide. I’m hoping for a little longer and I cried all night, thinking about it, I’m trying to convince myself that I’m all right living without it” from “Far Away”.

Empty Houses have potential to make incredible waves in the music industry if marketed correctly. While there are a number of modern motown and bluesy groups out there, few have the instant ability to stand out, even if they are more of a throwback sound than an exploration. Singer Ali Shea has honest potential to take the country by storm with her voice, and I hope more people hear it. Whatever the future holds for Empty Houses, I want to hear it sooner rather than later. Please go check out their EP from their bandcamp site. You won’t regret it.

4.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and his new life goal is to hear Ali Shea sing live. It sounds creepy, but it comes from a place of adoration. Does that make it worse? Oh no…. 😦

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