Empire of the Sun’s third studio album, Two Vines, crashes over you in a wave of pulsating, synthesized beats. The 11 tracks explore simple, everyday themes like love and freedom with an eccentric sound that conjures up images of lush nature.
“We’re just going deeper into paradise,” lead singer Luke Steele said in an interview with Billboard.com. “We’re always talking about that unexplainable feeling of waking up on a long beach and the sun’s rising. You can hear the birds, and they’re talking to each other […] the dolphins are swimming, and you hear the waves tickling each other as they land on the shore.”
The band harps on this theme of “paradise found” in the album’s strongest songs: “Before” and “High and Low.” Both exemplify the synth-heavy sound coupled with the band’s trademark breathy falsetto vocals. The overall sound is an edgy breath of fresh air amid so much stale, mainstream output. “Before” leads with a clean guitar riff that bursts into a fantastical sound by the chorus. Bringing the nature imagery back full circle, Steele sings, “Before I met you / I was lost at sea.” The intensity of sound in “High and Low” builds as the song begins and climaxes. The acoustic guitar kicks in as the chorus starts and the dance beat follows. The scenic theme persists in the album’s titular track “Two Vines.” The song’s beat sounds like a cascade of rain pouring down.
This decision to create a theme for the album was no small or accidental one.
“There was an image we talked about very early on with this record, before we wrote the title track, ‘Two Vines,’ and that was this image of a modern city overtaken by jungle, almost like mother nature taking back the planet,” Nick Littlemore, the duo’s other half, said in a press release.
The track “Digital Life” drives this message home as Steele sings, “This digital life don’t keep me warm,” to a sweeping sound that makes you feel like you’re in a technological wonderland.
This digitally-inspired sound is also found in songs “Ride” and “First Crush.” Both are reminiscent of French electronic music duo Daft Punk’s style. Outfitted with exciting, looped beats and vocals, both songs draw the unwanted comparison between the two bands that has been around since 2013. Eerily similar to Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush,” “First Crush” holds a steadily dazed, mid-tempo rhythm that grows into a dance anthem.
But Empire of the Sun’s originality still manages to overcome the rivalry with other highlights of the album such as “Way to Go,” a more open, contemplative track, and “To Her Door,” a distinctly somber track that builds into an upbeat ballad.
Although the band’s unique sound crafts a cohesive album, many songs act as fillers that feed off of the other tracks. “Friends,” “There’s No Need,” and “ZZZ” all pick up speed and then slow down to introduce a chorus that is all too similar to the rest of the songs. The composition of each song slowly but surely becomes repetitive, as the listener can easily anticipate the product of simplistically dreamy lyrics set to an intricate techno beat.
This effort by Empire of the Sun, despite these points, is a triumphant one. The duo has succeeded in taking its sound to the next level and perfecting it. Where there may have been dull moments or inconsistencies in sound and style before, Littlemore and Steele have fortified their status as artists.
Featured Image By Virgin EMI