Now that we’ve had artists like KT Tunstall, Sara Bareilles, and Ingrid Michaelson effectively make claim to that post-millennial female Adult Contemporary niche, it’s hard not to look at competing stars with a bit of skepticism and—if they fail to prove their worth—cynicism. Erin McCarley definitely fills that roll, as her dry, occasionally cryptic songwriting feels like the kind of album that could only come from record label focus groups and inventive marketing department stratagems. Love, Save the Empty is a remarkably forgettable album, which is not a good sign for an artist who so desperately wants to be part of the pop-rock mainstream.
“Sticky-Sweet”—from its Jon Brion-esque production right down to its vocal inflections—sounds as blatant a Fiona Apple ripoff as there ever was, much as how lead single “Pony (It’s OK)”, though effective, manages to come across as one of those one-off quirky pop-hits that will be forgotten on some Now! That’s What I Call Music compilation years from now. The real problem, though? There is absolutely no personality to this music, and Erin McCarley, truly, sounds as anonymous a pop starlet as there ever was. Besides, when practically every song is co-written, produced, and performed by the relatively unknown Jamie Kenney, you begin to wonder who the real star behind this record is.