I was so ready to pass on Ice on the Dune, but after a theatrical intro, just a few bars into track 2 ‘DNA’ I was hooked. Maybe it’s my low expectations tricking me, but Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore have shown strokes of genius in the upbeat new album that stays true to the signature Empire of the Sun sound and flair.
We’re all familiar with lead single ‘Alive,’ which for me, is way more enjoyable side by side with the 11 light, bouncing tracks that sound like summer. ‘Awakening,’ without a doubt, is track of the album for me – from the first few opening chords where Steele demands your attention with his piercing vocals, that bass dropping in at the 0:37 mark, right through to the cacophony of multiple melodies bringing the tune crashing down to finish.
‘Old Flavours,’ with a distinct lack of vocals, is pick #2 – there’s a certain dizzying element to the dominant melody, but the beat keeps charging forward with ever-evolving layers of synth and the odd organ spell.
Honourable mentions to the aforementioned ‘DNA,’ the boys’ favourite track ‘Surround Sound’ and ‘Keep A Watch,’ which gave me visions of David Bowie with those opening vocals over a Labyrinth-esque tune.
Hit the FF button on ‘I’ll Be Around’ (change of gears, but you feel like you’re in the same place at the end of the track), ‘Celebrate’ (about halfway through you start to think: just add hotpants and you’ve got a Kylie track) and ‘Disarm’ (left waiting for that extra melodic line, or that simple pitch change, to kick it up a notch).
It’s great to see the duo taking some risks and evolving their style, but retaining the distinct Empire of the Sun sound that hooked so many fans in the first place. Let’s just hope mainstream media (cough *Nova* cough) don’t drown this album into overplayed territory.
Star rating: 4 out of 5
Here is the above mentioned win-over track ‘DNA’:
Followed by the album’s debut single, ‘Alive’:
Ice On The Dune hits the shelves on June 14. Pre-order now on iTunes.