Review: ‘Two Vines’ – Empire of the Sun

AUSTRALIAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC duo Empire of the Sun (Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore) are back again with their brand new album, ‘Two Vines’. Released on the 28th October 2016, ‘Two Vines’ is their third studio album, having last released an album in 2013 (‘Ice on the Dune’) which was the follow up to their 2009 debut album, ‘Walking On A Dream’. Although they have been off the radar for the past three years, the duo are no strangers to chart success through hit singles such as ‘Walking On A Dream’, ‘We Are The People’ and ‘Alive’. Now after a brief hiatus, the pair are back on the airwaves. Their new album isn’t a very drastic change of sound from their previous albums however, still possessing that playful mix of indie-pop and electronic music that has defined the band. In fact, ‘Two Vines’ is quite pop indeed and as such, this album may not be for everyone.  However, if you are already a fan of Empire of the Sun and like the sound of their earlier work, then you will not be disappointed by this album.

Opening with ‘Before’, one of the album’s strongest songs, ‘Two Vines’ takes you on a musical journey full of electronic ambience, sweet synths and feel-good vocals. ‘Euphoric electronic’ would be a good term to describe the album’s sound and indeed the band’s previous work also. At times, the music found in this album is just bliss. Although there are songs on the album that are quite slow, dreamy and ambient (take ‘Ride’ and ‘Digital Life’ for example), there are songs that are definitely more pumped-up, featuring a feel-good summer-time character and these are the songs that you would probably identify as pop if you had to put a label on them. In fact, these kind of songs really remind me of Swedish House Mafia’s well-known sound due to the combination of pop vocals and electro-house, which seems to be the style of Empire of the Sun also.

‘High and Low’ is the album’s lead single and a prime example of this blend of pop and electronic music. It feels quite crafted for the charts. However, it is an uplifting anthem, featuring catchy vocals and elements of house music. The title song of the album, ‘Two Vines’ is also quite euphoric and uplifting, contributing to the album’s dreamy, ambient electronic bliss. Perhaps this album should be called ‘Music To Fall To’?  It is an album that makes you want to sit back and do nothing but watch the world accelerate around you at the same time.

‘Way To Go’ is a personal favourite of mine from the album. Catching your ear with a pumping drumbeat before Luke Steele’s vocals take centre-stage of the song and the song’s tone changes considerably. Steele’s vocals are of a very high-quality during ‘Way To Go’ and the song itself reminds me of ‘Half Mast’, a hit song by Empire of the Sun from their debut album that was released seven years ago. ‘To Her Door’ is the album’s closing track and is notable for featuring Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. It is quite sombre in character but also features some lovely guitar playing, courtesy of Buckingham. In conclusion, ‘Two Vines’ seems like an album that will be hard to disappoint fans of Empire of the Sun and a piece of work that the duo should definitely be proud of but at the same time, I struggle to see this album being regarded as their greatest work or an album that will significantly attract more fans and listeners. In other words, ‘Two Vines’ is without-a-doubt a good album by the duo but nothing extraordinary in comparison to their earlier albums.