It was Passion Pit who noticed that, under the right circumstances, “everything is going to the beat.” Since that 2006 lyric, few bands have pursued the synesthesia possibilities of a rhythmic universe more relentlessly than Australian duo Empire of the Sun. The band’s debut 2008 single, ‘Walking on a Dream’ brought the world into melodic order – a song powerful enough to make the footfalls of daily peregrinations come into alignment with the downbeat. On their third LP, ‘Two Vines,’ the band continues to make glossy retro-futurist pop, creating a world of synthesizers and keyboards that feels both primeval and modern at once.
Lead single, ‘High and Low’ holds tightly to the band’s previous material. It’s simple and elegant. The chorus does what it says on the tin, modulating between high and low tones as the band chants the titular hook. It works: band and listener end up moving together. The directional motif doesn’t apply only to ‘High and Low’. Just a brief rundown of the ‘Two Vines’ tracklist reveals titles like ‘Before,’ ‘Ways To Go,’ ‘Ride,’ and ‘To Her Door.’ Empire of the Sun are always headed somewhere on ‘Two Vines – back, forward, up and down – even when the ebullience of each arrangement seems to bleed endlessly into the next.
Two of the record’s most distinctive and best songs arrive last. ‘ZZZ’ borrows a wobbly synthesizer loop from the Talking Heads’ oeuvre, casting the track in a bit of relief from the rest of the record. ‘To Her Door,’ coloured with more muted tones, is a plaintive album closer, but the rhythmic world-building the band seeks is complete far before the end of the record. When they sing, breathlessly, “All the universe is humming with me” near the end of the title track, ‘Two Vines,’ they’ve delightfully subsumed themselves into a world apart, a world of their own. Empire of the Sun walk on with ‘Two Vines,’ footfalls on the two and the four, their cheery world where everything goes, inexorably, to the beat.
‘High and Low’