1. Track List (28)
Giddy, Danceable, Pure Electro Nostalgia Shapes The Magical Music Of Empire of the Sun’s ‘Two Vines’
I had been meaning to sit down and listen to a full Empire of the Sun album for ages, but hadn’t gotten around to it until recently. It’s musical style represents the crème de la crème of various sounds from a time in my mid twenties when electroclash and indie pop and electro pop and the bazillion other classifiers of that certain style of synthesized dance rock was playing everywhere at bars and clubs (at least the ones I frequented.) That scene kind of died or so I had thought; one night in 2016, I was watching Jimmy Kimmel, and this band, which I had never heard of, came on with all such epic costuming and live production value, to play “High and Low.” I was completely enthralled with not only the cinematic energy of that performance but the sheer joy I felt coming from this hop along synth pop adventure I was hearing. It was house, trance, and old school new wave – plus, both happy and also wistful – not unlike the world of imagination I associate with late eighties movies such as “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.” Does that make any sense? I was getting a nostalgic childhood vibe from the music, in the same way I remembered the sad yet hopeful elegance associated with Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, the theme song of that movie. Come to find out, this duo was Australian just like that movie production. I really think that there is a link there. While I did not continue on with their music then, it’s funny – I heard a few singles here and there and basically came to the conclusion over the last few years that this was one of the greatest combination of sounds and feelings out there – and so certainly, their albums ‘must’ be good I assumed. Well, I must have been on some other shit for all this time, but I was so happy when I finally gave this album it’s proper attention in 2019 – as it was everything I’d hoped it to be.
Designed After A Beautiful Dystopia
All eleven songs are pretty much a treat on the album Two Vines, and the overall concept I discovered through research is that the songs are held together by a theme of, as singer Nick Littlemore calls it, “this image of a modern city being overtaken by a jungle.” That is the type of imagery I love to think about; whereas post apocalyptic usually revolves around the trope of endless deserts, fallen cities and lawless bands, I welcome the concept of going a little further and introducing life and nature back into the picture – sort of a post-post apocalypse, where civilization is still ended, but at least there is a harmony with Gaia. To look at the band’s hand painted album art, they look straight out of the sci-fi adventures of my youth – all of the albums imagery collectively presenting a movie series that never really happened – yet obviously, it ‘happens’ through the music. This over-arching concept has been trucking along since 2008, which blows my mind as I have basically been unaware of them since then – but one of their biggest hits was an early one called “Walking on a Dream” – to be reprised on the deluxe version of Two Vines, by the way. And all this time I thought that mood lifting dance track was by MGMT. Already in love though with “High and Low”, the tracks here have highs and lows in terms of tempos and excitement level, but nowhere really does it loose that classic digitized somberness I so love.
Beautiful Beats Backed By The Best In Throwback Biz
Beautiful, aching, ethereal falsettos accompany nearly all tracks, but I remember on a slow ballad with a gorgeous backbeat clap (“Digital Life”) being particularly effected by the vocals. Definitely a moment where you snake and sway with your headphones on, imagining epic sights and horizons. Sometimes, as on “First Crush”, the beat can be so stripped down to only the quieter and most essential digital noises – reminding me of the movie theme songs of a much earlier time in the eighties when perhaps they didn’t have all the best digital patches – perfect for the synthwave reinvention at work here, replete with city pop Japanese influences and a romantic vibe that melts my heart. “To Her Door” is similarly romantic, but more of a Fleetwood Mac style – and that could possibly be attributed to the fact that that band’s founding member Lindsay Buckingham played for Empire of the Sun on this album, along with some of my other favorite musicians, such as Wendy Melvoin of Prince and the Revolution, plus some artists who musicians for David Bowie. All of this leads to a track to track perfection, even if I find “ZZZ” a little corny and too on-the-nose for nu-disco.
The Best Motoring Dance Music Since Daft Punk
Most of all, I love the high quality motoring synth songs, whatever their stylistic approach - be it another Fleetwood Mac-esque arrangement on “Way To Go”, which contains similar heavenly vibes and tripped up drum fills, or another similar driving dance rock pulse on “Ride”, with it’s more Daft Punk vocoder style and soul lifting chorus parts. “There’s No Need” motors in a different way – with behind the beat open-close hi hats, and also soundless moments to let the sad vocals float and express lines like “hey, my lonely jealous eyes / cold steel like it's raining light / say, I'm going out tonight / you know now I'm quite alone.” “Friends” is a complete surprise, as a languid clap-ballad almost sounds as if it is going to stay in darkwave territory before totally switching into an extremely danceable double time beat – providing much elation and motivation to move. Great songwriting, arranging, sound selection, and a real understanding of electronic dance music (driven I believe by Nick Littlemore because of his background with his band PNAU) keeps almost every song moving here with the slickest of production values. The title song “Two Vines” does not disappoint due to hard driving synth buzz, sparse bass drum hits, and thoughtful key changes, while a real disco rhythm guitar and silky string vibes pair perfectly with gorgeous harmonies and a steady on-the-one funk beat on album opener “Before”, all of which couldn’t be any more perfect sounding – coupled with yet another emotion giving key change moment that just elevates the magic. With so many songs that hook me, it’s hard to even have favorites at this point. I am too busy dancing and vibing to even get to the lore of the lyrics – but ‘oh’, I will in time, because this thing stays on replay.
3. Official (6)
4. Audio (25)
6. Featuring Remixes
7. Albums (15)
8. News (2)
11. Similar Artists (10)
12. Artist Info
Empire of the Sun are an Australian electronic music duo from Sydney, formed in 2007. The duo is a collaboration between Luke Steele, of alternative rock band The Sleepy Jackson, and Nick Littlemore, of electronic dance band Pnau.
- Virgin EMI