Today — Friday, November 28, 2016 — started rather shitty for me. First, I overslept because I forgot to set an alarm when I went to bed last night. I woke up in a panic because I knew immediately that I’d slept way too much — I felt way too damn refreshed and there was more sun pouring in through my bedroom window than there usually is when I wake up. I asked Alexa what time it was and she said 7:45, which confirmed my fears; I’d overslept by an hour and 15 minutes.
So I scrambled and with eyes still barely open I reached for my computer to log on to work for the day and start to play catch up. It was then that I discovered that my internet was out. Thinking in that moment about the emails and Slack messages surely piling up for me sent me into a mild panic. I took a deep breath and got up to brush my teeth and take a quick shower. When I got up out of bed I noticed that my right knee was all ganked up, sore and swollen, for no apparent reason that I could think of. This is what happens when you start to get old; parts of your body start to fail you and you have no idea why.
After brushing my teeth, I grabbed my dog and walked down to my neighborhood coffee shop. On the way back I spilled coffee all the new t-shirt I had put on just a few minutes prior. F*ck me. I was barely a few minutes into my day and it could hardly be going worse.
But then I returned home and discovered that my internet had come back on while I was out and the brand new Empire of the Sun album, Two Vines, had auto-downloaded onto my various Apple devices due to my preordering the album months ago. Suddenly, everything changed.
I went out and sat in my back yard and gave the full album a first listen via my favorite Skullcandy headphones. The band had pre-released a few tracks in the weeks leading up to the full release, but there’s still something so special about sitting down to listen to a full album by a musical act you love for the first time, and Two Vines did not disappoint. Featuring contributions from Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac along with Wendy Melvoin (from Prince’s band, The Revolution) and Henry Hey and Tim Lefebvre (members of David Bowie’s Blackstar band) Two Vines is light and fun and celebratory, music that makes one feel joyous and happy to be alive and healthy (ganky knees aside), music that conjures up thoughts of long drives down coastal highways, the sun and cool breeze kissing your face.
It’s probably no coincidence that the record was conceived in Hawaii. As Luke Steele, one half of the Australian duo (the other being Nick Littlemore) notes in the album’s press release, “I’d spend the morning surfing, then roll in and make music into the night.”
As corny as it sounds, listening to Two Vines for the first time made my heart soar, so much that I felt like I should text my friends to tell them that I love them and how blessed I feel to have them in my life, to write to past loves to thank for the times we shared and for giving me pieces of their hearts. (Coincidentally, the 15-song deluxe version of Two Vines features songs with titles like “First Crush,” “Friends,” “Lend Me Some Light,” and “Welcome to My Life.”)
I’m not sure if it’s because the current election cycle has cast a shadow on my soul, or maybe because I’ve spent the past couple of weeks listening mainly to the dark-ish new Conor Oberst, Leonard Cohen, and Bon Iver albums — or perhaps a combination of both — but Two Vines felt like a bright, sunny day that comes rushing in after weeks of gray skies.
After making it through the full album, I went back inside and put Two Vines on my Sonos system and gave it a couple more listens. (If ever there was a band made to be listened to via Sonos, it’s Empire of the Sun. Steele and Littlemore make music that is big, exuberant, and full of spirited energy.) My favorite tracks that weren’t pre-released are “Ride” and “Friends,” while “Way to Go” and “High and Low” are my favorites of the tracks that were pre-released, all for the reasons noted previously.
Obviously, Steele and Littlemore had no idea they’d be timing the release of their newest album to a day that would start off on a sour note for me personally, but it arrived like a much-needed pick-me-up gift from the universe. It’ll likely be playing on repeat throughout my house continually in the near future, as I plan on riding the Two Vines joy wave hard into the weekend and for many days to come. Stream it below.