Saturday, August 31, 2013
Album Review: "Ice On The Dune" - Empire of the Sun
In this blogger's world there are the chosen ones. A musical Premiership of sorts. Regular readers will know who they are. But if you don't know and/or need reminding, the creative Aussie duo Empire of the Sun figure in that very exclusive list. So you won't be surprised to learn that "Ice On The Dune" was probably my most eagerly awaited CD of 2013 and I bought it immediately on its release.
The big question is, does it measure up to its mighty predecessor, "Walking On A Dream"? Well, yes, and no. For "Walking..." was a great debut but also for me a patchy one, as I don't always play it from beginning to end. Yet the greatness of the first four tracks on that album (and "Without You" in its remixed form) totally outweighs most of the recorded output by everyone else from that time and, well, ever since then.
At that time they were compared to MGMT - an unfair comparison in my view, as EotS are (a) way better and (b) have their own unique sound and identity. Add to that the unique back story of the duo's 'characters' ("Emperor" Steele and "Lord" Littlemore) and the fact that the divine Nick Littlemore does not take part in the band's live touring schedule, leaving main man Luke Steele and his backing band to do the honours, which just adds to the duo's intrigue.
"Lux" is the album's opener. Fans will remember this as the opening number from the album launch gig at Sydney Opera House, which was streamed online. It sets the scene for "DNA" which is one of the most instant and commercial sounding tracks, and very close in sound and spirit to the best tracks on "Walking On A Dream" so it's no surprise that this will be the second single to be released from this album. It's catchy, distinctive and stands up to repeated listening.
"Alive" is next in the track listing: released as the first single, it screamed "summer anthem" with its happy and positive vibe, yet (in the UK at least) was totally overlooked. I still don't understand why the UK doesn't 'get' EotS although that's probably more to do with the emphasis on EDM and trashy grime/r'n'b/talent show acts in the charts and on the radio, and anything outwith that seems to be overlooked.
"Concert Pitch" and title track "Ice On The Dune" follow, both maintaining the same recognisable vibe from the first album. "Awakening" slows the pace down but is one of the album's real growers: this sounds like the Pet Shop Boys doing a variation on the Beloved's "Sweet Harmony". Yes, that good.
It took me a while to get into "I'll Be Around" but it was eventually very rewarding. Again, there's a little PSB influence here.
If you cast your mind back to earlier in the year, there was a little taster-video posted on YouTube for a song which we all thought was called "Discovery" but it's actually called "Old Flavours" This was the song which followed "Lux" in the Sydney Opera House gig. It's mainly an instrumental, which I'm not usually a fan of, but this is packed with greatness and again reminds me why I love Empire of the Sun so much. The album ends with "Keep A Watch" which like "Without You" on the debut album will probably benefit from a dance remix in the future.
They are promising a UK tour at some point. One thing's for sure, I will "keep a watch" as that's one band I would love to see play live in my part of the world.
"Ice On The Dune" still makes me happy and proud to call myself an Empyrean. Although this album, like its predecessor, may not be 100% perfect from beginning to end, it has totally enriched 2013's musical landscape and was well worth the wait.