Virgin EMI – 28th October
When theatrical synth-pop duo Empire of the Sun dropped their 2008 debut, Walking On A Dream, there were an abundance of psych and synth-pop acts who were still to smash our airwaves. Aside from Connecticut outfit MGMT, you’d have been hard struck to have found competition for success. For those into heavily-synthed psych-pop, Empire of the Sun were in luck.
Flash-forward a few years though, and everyone is doing it. Genres are blurring, instrumentation is becoming increasingly multifarious, yet the duo don’t appear to have recognised this in the production of their latest effort at all. Empire of the Sun are not dealing with the same music scene of eight years ago and other artists (Tame Impala, M83, Jagwar Ma) are simply doing more with synthpop than was needed circa MGMT.
Two Vines, the follow-up to 2013 sophomore Ice On The Dune, is a collection of mid-tempo tracks, which, unlike its predecessors, doesn’t play much focus on strong, punching beats, which is perhaps part of what made past singles such as ‘Alive’ and ‘Walking On A Dream’ so commercially successful.
Opener ‘Before’ brings false hope with a promising start of a solid beats and funkadelic melodies, but before long turns into a boring pop structure that never really develops; somewhat a shame, because lyrically it poses potential to have been a festival banger with its chorus of “come wash the clouds away, can’t wait for summer”. Single ‘High and Low’ is a track which just manages to clasp on to the enchantment of the duo’s previous material, yet the title track of this record, ‘Two Vines’, simply lacks any excitement. ‘Friends’ has the ability to be a dance hit if only the duo had curated fans on the mainstream club scene, and from then on the album becomes rather too homogenous to comment track-by-track.
If a highlight were to be forcefully squeezed from the record, ‘To Her Door’ offers a mesmeric combination of acoustic guitar, layered melodic twangs and soft ambient vocals. The strength of this as a pop song outshines the rest of the album with its slower pace and simplistic formulaic structure. Imagine Kodaline in space and this track is bang on.
What strikes with Two Vines is that the duo seem to have released their best efforts as singles, leaving behind what really does materialise as an empty shell of an album. Despite their impressively stylised glam-rock live shows, Empire of the Sun fail to produce such creative works within their sound. Sci-fi productions glitter throughout, but melodically, it simply lacks.
Stream: Empire of the Sun – Two Vines.