Album Review: Empire of the Sun – Two Vines

7/10

Album Review: Empire of the Sun - Two Vines

Hailing from down under the Electronica/Dance duo Empire of the Sun are releasing Two Vines the follow up to their second album, Ice on the Dune. The new release drops on October 28th in all the usual locations. Empire of the Sun are renown for their dynamic and flamboyant live shows, this characterization can be mostly credited to frontman Luke Steele who has donned some totally unforgettable outfits during performances. Their music is filled with spiraling electronics and layered vocals. Their singular approach to the genres of Coolwave, EDM and even Glam rock have earned them significant success in Australia and garnered them notice internationally.

The members of this dynamic duo are Luke Steele, an alt rock veteran from the band The Sleepy Jackson, and Nick Littlemore who among various endeavors worked with the dance outfit Priau. Their decision to join forces came from their frequent encounters on various projects the two had been working on prior to their own incarnation. The two started their collaboration in 2007 in Sydney and a year later released their debut Walking on a Dream which went double platinum in Australia and gold in the UK, spurred on by the singles “Walking on a Dream” and “We Are People”. Their stylings are a cross pollination of synth pop, electronica and dance. They released the follow up to their debut in June of 2014. Ice on the Dune was not as well received by the public but Steele has stated that many things were learned from the experience and it resulted in a lot of musical growth for the duo.

The new release Two Vines Began it’s gestation in 2014. The inspiration came from the imagined image of a modern city that is taken back by a jungle. The release was recorded in Hawaii and was produced by Empire of the Sun and Peter Mayes. A new facet to the pair’s approach to recording is the number of collaborations from storied musical contributors. The album features the talents of legendary Fleetwood Mac member Lindsay Buckingham, famed Prince collaborator Wendy Melvoin and Bowie’s “Darkstar” collaborators Henry Hey and Tim Lefebvre. The announcement of all those masterful musical maestros in the studio has built significant interest in what would result.

The prior works of Empire of the Sun have always been exceptionally well produced with great attention paid to dance beats. “Two Vines” lives up to and exceeds their prior releases high standards. The new release has an additional polish and musical sensibility that makes the songs engaging and accessible. The first track Before sets the interstellar tone for the album with its helium filled layered vocals that produce an infinite serene feeling. There is exceptional balance in all the elements that are at work, and harkens to the early works of The Pet Shop Boys. The song is sunlit and splendid. This selection with its underlying attention to the beat also makes it along with songs like Way To Go, RideZZZ and Friends great dance tracks that have impeccable pedigrees.

The songs High and Low, Digital Life and First Crush are appealing quasi ballads that utilize soaring vocals and pixilated synths to get across messages about the importance of love and the lurking coldness that threatens in the digital age. Each of these songs has a thread of exuberance and sophistication that sets it apart from other performers’ offerings. First Crush in particular will capture the listener with its definite 80’s inspired sound. The song could have easily appeared on the soundtrack for a John Hughes movie. That is not particularly a bad thing considering how those soundtracks were so carefully curated. Another standout is the title track, Two Vines which has a slower tempo than most of the other songs on the album. The song’s lyrics speak to the preciousness of our planet Earth and ponder what lays ahead for mankind and the planet. The “Do Not Miss” track on the release is To Her Door, was co written with Lindsay Buckingham. Here the guitar is more apparent in the accompaniment and it is the least synth adorned song of the collection. The track is best characterized as a sweet love song with a Human League flavor. It delivers something very special as the finale to the album.

“Two Vines” stays within the boarders that Steele and Littlemore have created for their collaboration yet it is alluring and hypnotic. They are displaying with the release that they have become masters of what they do cutting away the cant to produce wondrous sonic landscapes. The content of the album is not deeply introspective, but delivers sophisticated party and club music with a professional sheen that is captivating. The album grows with each listen. For listeners who appreciate Electronica, Coolwave and EDM Two Vines is definitely worthy of consideration as an addition to your musical collection.

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