Empire of the Sun is an up-and-coming indie/electronic duo with a particularly fitting name. The 1984 novel that Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore drew inspiration from is a tale of disoriented youth and immense freedom being closed in on by hostile forces. In a similar manner, Empire of the Sun’s debut album, Walking on a Dream, explores the territory of youth and depravity as they confront the pains of reality. Their musical style is best described as MGMT doused in painkillers. While cutting riffs and sanguine falsettos are peppered throughout the album, acoustic guitar, defensive lyrics, and pensive humming all serve to scale back such optimism. After an exploratory opening track, the duo lays down its first single “Walking on a Dream.” As cliché a love song as any, the track nonetheless captures the dreamlike thrill of a budding relationship as it surges forward. Yet the lyrics are foreboding, tempering the rush of the moment with concerns over its velocity. “We are the People” looks back on this moment through a Dylan-esque chord progression. With lyrics that paint the relationship in a desperate and waning phase, the earlier hubris of the album is revisited in cool irony. What follows is a series of tracks that reflect the chaos of a love gone awry. While no track stands out as particularly noteworthy, their synergistic effect carries the album forward in a singular, disoriented fashion. The album emerges from this state in the penultimate track, “Tiger by my Side,” reflecting the earlier optimism of “Walking on a Dream” with similar drumbeats yet more complex, reverberating guitarwork. This, along with the lyrics, exposes a maturity hitherto unseen, conveying depth and confidence that complement rather than diminish the duo’s earlier youthfulness. The LP closes with “Without You,” an 80’s inspired ballad that reflects on love not as a brash, prideful sensation but rather something to be held, cherished, and most importantly, missed. While on face a stylistic departure from the rest of the album, this effect is clearly intentional, conveying a deeper type of relation than previously explored. The result is a powerful revisiting of love vis-à-vis its depiction in the second track. Walking on a Dream is nothing short of a masterful first recording, a work that exposes Empire of the Sun as an animated yet pensive band.

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