There’s something poetic about the name of this musical project. “Isle” instead of “island” feels more exotic, and can also indicate solitude. Solitude can be healthy or not. Isles can be in warm, tropical places… or not. And a place being empty takes on a profoundly different meaning based on the circumstances of that spot.
Thinking about all these things is a good way to begin to think of moods that Empty Isles conjures during a listen to For When You Need Me. I want to say at first listen that this is quintessential rainy day music for a fall day, but that descriptor is too limiting. When listening to “Hope Finds Me” the chillness of the track is such that it could be a rainy day track, but the melody and arrangements therein are too bright – they bring up images of pale, light colored hues. I’m reminded at times of Sleeping at Last (in every song from Empty Isles, really). Who remembers the Yearbook series he did? So good.
Perhaps a more obvious comparison than Sleeping at Last would be Copeland. Zach Lardy’s vocals are definitely a dead ringer for Aaron Marsh at times, and parts of this album feel like the lighter parts of Copeland’s Ixora or You Are My Sunshine.
Empty Isles are masters of coming up with earworms of melodies that are meant to calm you more than pump you up. There are two notable examples of this on the record. First, “Old Picture Show” has a post-rock like guitar hook floats around your head—like one of those dreams from the Roald Dahl book The BFG (The main character, the Big Friendly Giant, is known for stealing into children’s bedrooms under black of night and blowing good dreams through a trumpet through their windows, where they go to the kids). They sort of float around your head before dropping in and become embedded in your consciousness. Like dreams, this song articulates both serenity and tension at times. Very Death Cab–like. Another example of a song where this occurs is “When I Met Penny,” a song that could be a love song. The very simple piano melody articulates intrigue, curiosity, and perhaps a bit of trepidation. It fits all of those moods.
This album is well suited for an evening when you want to chillax and experience tranquility in a myriad of different ways. I encourage you to do that at some point during this Fall season. In the meantime, I’ll be prentending it’s Fall while I sit I outside in the nearly 90-degree heat (yay, Ohio! I guess it is still technically summer…).