Music Rewind: Empire of the Sun’s ‘Walking on a Dream’
Shane Steinberg | Monday, March 1, 2010
It seems rather odd to call this a music “rewind;” Empire of the Sun’s album “Walking on a Dream” was only released in 2009. While the album was by no means overlooked or forgotten, it was an album that should have garnered much more attention than it actually did, given its quality and the timing of the album’s release in the wake of MGMT’s massive success with a similar synth-pop sound. It is an album that at first will seem foreign to most but with just one listen will have anyone smiling and taking to the dance floor.
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, and armed with a style of music that makes them awesome for the same reasons that MGMT are awesome, Empire of the Sun has a flare for the “out there” that gives the duo a Lady Gaga-like quality. They created a dance floor dream of a record on their debut album, “Walking on a Dream.” There’s a daring quality to every bit of the duo, Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore, that more than just creeps into their music. Much of their 10-track LP takes on a “love it or hate it” quality. The first half of the album, until the track “Delta Bay,” showcases something real special. Songs like “We are the People” and “Half Mast” play like funk-pop bliss at its best, giving each track that sort of airy, cloud-nine feel that puts the “awe” in “awesome.”
Although often compared to MGMT and other new indie-dance ilk, Empire of the Sun is no copycat nor are they a flash in the pan. Yes, the album trails off a bit — just so that there are no secrets here, it trails off more than a bit — but when the duo are actually concentrated on being true to their weird selves and making good, enjoyable music, that music plays like candy — sweet, blissful and purely irresistible.
Speaking of purely irresistible, Empire of the Sun’s second single, the angelic, atmospheric “We Are the People,” exemplifies the band’s dance-y warmth and ability to turn any subject into something coated with sunshine-y optimism. The song’s prelude, “Half Mast,” a three-minute tale of longing that foreshadows “We Are The People” and its heightened sense of loss, opens and continues in the most dream-like fashion of any song on the album, with its soaring synthesizer playing in the background.
The album’s sole blemish, and a large one at that, is that the latter half of the 10 tracks sound as though they’ve lost the airiness of the first five tracks. The album shifts gears at “Delta Bay,” but never really reverts back to the style that makes you want to put the first five songs on repeat and just listen to them over and over again. And that’s probably what you’ll do — forgo the last five songs in favor of five (or maybe four) of the best tracks of any album released in 2009.
There’s a journey on this record, one highlighted by seductive melodies, memorable falsettos and monster hooks that get in your head and have you dancing endlessly. That’s the great success here, and despite the band’s lackluster second half of songs, it’s the first half — especially from “Standing on a Shore” to “We Are the People” — that shows that Empire of the Sun is a band you definitely ought to know.