Take a couple ex members of The Graduate, enter the rich tones of vocalist Chris Rhein, toss in some layers of fantastical, dream-like electronic ambiance, and you got the perfect recipe for a seasoned yet refreshing indie-rock experience, The Sun and the Sea. With the release of their debut full-length, American Empire, drummer Tim Moore and guitarist Max Sauer have joined forces with Rhein to produce a flourished, glimmering sound independent to their former project, succeeding with a cohesive follow-up to their previous EPs.
Throughout American Empire, listeners will be soothed by gentle atmospheric instrumentals that capture a sense of serenity, effectively incorporating everything from electronic synthesizers, trumpets and swift, scattering percussion. The melodies flow smoothly track by track, setting the tone with dreamy, twinkling keys in opening track “Follow the Light,” and the romantic vibe of “You,” as Rhein sings “The world could end tonight, I wouldn’t have a clue as long as I have you.”
While at times listeners may feel like they’re drifting in a sea of similar sounds and lyrical content as one track seamlessly flows into another, “Drive Me Home,” is a standout track with uplifting, hopeful keys and guitar rhythms that portray fluttering romantic intent, as Rhein pleads “Won’t you tell me I’m the only one?” The following track, “Under the Gun” features one of Rhein’s best vocal performances, as his range matches the airy, majestic atmosphere of the musical components, while “King of Kings” breaks up the low-key momentum of the record with a galactic instrumental journey.
The Sun and The Sea have produced a fluid, indie-rock/electronic fusion with American Empire, suitable for fans of The Graduate as well as those who are completely new to these musicians, as they produce something rich in ambiance and emotion that is still rock at its core. The lyrics may not be poetically groundbreaking, but they serve well for the humbled, awe-inspired tone of the record, overall making for both a calming and captivating listen.