It was 2008 and a song called “Kids” by new psych-synth-dance band called MGMT was on
everyone’s playlist. The song, the album, felt so incredibly new and retro at the same time.
Simultaneously a band from Sydney was making the same type of noise and “Walking On a
Dream”, a lush and laid back synth-wave groover, found its way onto those same playlists.
Almost 9 years later, MGMT has amputated most of its fan base by seeing how self-indulgent
and prog, a band can possibly become. And Empire of the Sun is giving fans exactly what they
loved about the late aughties. Side chained indie dance floor bangers about leaving the weight
of the everyday behind.
It is both Empire of the Sun’s greatest strength and greatest weakness to reflect such a specific
time in musical history so well. Two Vines gives listeners exactly what they liked about Walking
On A Dream with little progression or evolution.
From its opening, the ten track album is fully represented, full washes of synth, Luke Steele’s
effect laden nasal voice fading in and out of each beat. The formula works at times, most
notably on the track “Friends” a slick and almost too catchy track, which manages to capture the
immediacy and lyrical bounce and flow from verse to chorus that “Walking On a Dream” did so
effortlessly. And other times this formula can work against them, when too much space is given
for the cringe-worthy lyrics on “Digital Life”: “ohhh, this digital life / don’t keep me warm”. A song whose message seems unintentionally ironic given the band’s late eighties influences and late eighties wheelhouse.
Two Vines hits the mark on a few occasions and Empire of the Sun manages to deliver a few
candy-coated, guilty pleasure earworms in the process. The problem then lies in the band’s
commitment to sounding exactly as they did since their first inception. Two Vines, though only
37 minutes long, drags. As the washes of synths and side-chain four on the floor go-to can start
to feel more and more repetitive by the aptly titled end track “ZZZ”.
review by Jake Fox