When Luke Steele of The Sleepy Jackson and Nick Littlemore of Pnau joined forces in 2007, neo-psychedelic pop music was at an interesting stage; it didn’t quite exist.
One year before Empire Of The Sun released its first album, MGMT had just debuted Oracular Spectacular. The album, which served as the inception of the neo-psychedelic pop music genre, was a congenial take on psychedelic rock. The tracks on the 10-song album seemed to capture the innocence and naivety of a particular demographic of youth. To say that Oracular Spectacular was seminal would be an understatement. MGMT was just beginning to capitalize on creating well produced psych pop hits, and they were better than anyone else at doing so.
Then Walking On A Dream came along. The album was comprised of both dreamy psychedelia and highly accessible pop ballads. The duo’s second album, Ice On The Dune, explored many of the same concepts the band highlighted in Walking On A Dream. Aesthetically speaking, the album was a tremendous success. Much like in their first album, the band succeeded in their mission to create accessible psych-pop hits, but nothing more. In their third and most recent album, Two Vines, Empire Of The Sun carves deeper into a worn production path; one that is growing increasingly stale with each subsequent release.
Recorded in Hawaii and Los Angeles, Two Vines is co-produced by Empire Of The Sun and Peter Mayes (Sia, The Killers, Mika), alongside long-term collaborator, Donnie Sloan (Midnight To Monaco). Pianist/arranger Henry Hey and bassist Tim Lefebvre, from David Bowie’s Blackstar band, feature heavily on the album. Other collaborators include Wendy Melvoin from Prince’s Revolution and Fleetwood Mac guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham, who contributes guitar and backing vocals on the glistening To Her Door. Despite the impressively diverse roster of contributors, the album is ephemeral and will soon be forgotten.
The most redeemable aspect of Two Vines is that what the band does well; really well. The tasteful pop hooks and catchy electronic influenced choruses are enough to get a room dancing. ‘There’s No Need,’ and ‘Friends’ are among some of the album’s most accessible hits. The album’s lead track ‘High and Low’ is undoubtably the album’s most essential tune, the infectious hook reminiscent of the innocent songs from Walking On A Dream or Ice On The Dune. But even the album’s best track lacks substance. The lyrics are catchy but banal in nature, they’re fun if you don’t think about them too much. All in all, the album’s highlights are overshadowed by its inconsistencies, which makes the few good songs on it seem more auxiliary than anything.
Two Vines is exactly what you would predict from the band’s third album. It is, in essence, a guileless collection of pop hits that bring out the inner kid in all of us. It doesn’t do much, however, to break the status quo. It would have been nice to hear some experimentation from the Aussie psych pop duo, but this formula is what they do best. We should take the album at face value and revel in its catchy danceable style.
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