House on a Hill
Eric Nam is a household name in Korea, where he debuted as an idol in 2013 and found success as a singer and TV personality. With House on a Hill, the 34-year-old Korean American’s third English-language album, Nam is looking to find greater success in his home country. It might help that lead single “House on a Hill” is driven by one of America’s chief obsessions: home ownership. In Nam’s latest indie release, the house on a hill is a metaphor for happiness, and the often frustrating quest for an intangible more: “What if I get everything I want?/What if nothing ever fills me up?” Paired with a catchy melody and Nam’s warm vocals, “House on a Hill” is an earnest pop track, uplifting in its approachability—perhaps even more so in the additional version where Nam duets with American singer-songwriter Em Beihold. Elsewhere on the eight-track effort, “Don’t Leave Yet” is another standout. The EDM dance song has a truly magnificent drop and an evergreen subject: the belief that everything will be all right if you just stay on the dance floor. Nam slows things down for the start of percussive love-at-first-sight song “Only for a Moment”, and even more in vulnerable ballad “I Wish I Wasn’t Me”. “undefined” tells the story of a relationship that may never be (“My thoughts are better if they're left unspoken/Keepin' 'em to myself”) while the synth-driven “Sink or Swim” has Nam declaring his commitment to a love (“Blue skies or tidal waves/I'm with you either way/To sink or to swim with you”). In “Exist”, Nam asks another person to dive in too, if only for an evening: “Put it on the line/Just for tonight/Only you and I exist.” It’s a fitting epilogue to an album that explores the fragile liminal spaces between decisions, but rarely forgets its own commitment to the kind of dance-pop sensibilities that make listeners want to bop along.