Empire of the Sun- Two Vines
It has been a crazy few years for Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore. Since breaking out into the mainstream in 2008 with their debut album, Walking on a Dream, their goofy but entertaining larger-than-life style, elaborate live shows and dazzling electropop sound have developed a hardcore worldwide fan base that is ever increasing (given the title track to their debut album re-entered the US charts earlier this year).
I myself had been a fan of Empire for many years, but following their second EP release, Ice on the Dune I found myself distracted by other types of music. I always had found many of their records to be enjoyable, but often very inconsistent. Walking on a Dream was an album with a refreshing, organic approach to instrumentation, but as an overall project suffered from weak song writing, which left the project feeling very middle-of-the-road. Ice on the Dune brought better song writing to the table, which made it work better as an overall record, however the duo had shifted the production in a more EDM direction, which made the record seem very generic, and was overall a bit of a disappointment. But, given the duos talent, I went into this record not looking to be disappointed again.
Unfortunately though, Two Vines is not the firecracker I had hoped the band would come out with. Rather, this record seems to pick up the issues of the previous two records: generic and forgetful song writing combined with obscene overproduction. Rather than something new and refreshing, this record feels like the band has nothing new to bring to the table in terms of production and style. Thus, many moments on this record lack real substance.
That is not to say though that the album doesn’t have its moments. The lead single from the album, ‘High and Low’ is one track where the overproduced EDM sounds works in their favour, with building synthesisers and a catchy dance beat that slots very nicely next to other Empire songs like ‘Alive.’ The track ‘There’s No Need’ is the most experimental on the record, with a gorgeous vocal hook and refreshing percussion changes from the more generic banger beats of more forgettable tracks like ‘Way to Go.’ The closer ‘To Her Door’ is by far the most beautiful track on the record, with some beautiful guitar work on the bridge complimenting the tender story told in the lyrics, that brings the album to a heartfelt close. The best track on the record though is the title track ‘Two Vines’, with a banger beat, and a refreshing take on slower electropop that is up there with the best of Empire’s early tracks.
However, as for the rest of the record, while it has many beautiful sounds and production flourishes, suffers from lifeless songwriting. Nearly the entire second half of the album seems somewhat forgetful, and while you may enjoy the sounds, their lack of ability to stick with the listener hurts the overall experience of the record. What happened to the days when Empire of the Sun wrote music that felt fresh? The word I can describe this record is generic.
Overall, Two Vines optimises why I stopped finding myself interested in Empire of the Sun. While the sounds may be gorgeous, and there are several amazing tracks, if an album does not leave an impression on the listener or have any replay value then it hasn’t completely succeeded as a record. Steele, Littlemore, you have more substance than this!
Empire of the Sun- 'High and Low'
Empire of the Sun- 'Two Vines'