If you’ve been wondering what Empire of the Sun have been up to over the past three years, or if Nick Littlemore’s rumoured disappearance is for good, wonder no more. The duo is back with their second album, Ice On the Dune. Turns out, Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore had just been touring and making music individually for three years, then decided to get back into the studio to record this album.
While synth-pop — popular during the “blog haus” era from 2006 to 2008 — has taken a back seat to the more recently trendy sounds of deep house and bass, it’s good to know that Empire of the Sun haven’t lost their touch, not straying too far from that special brand of Aussie synth-pop that has been so missed.
Visually, the band has always had an inclination towards the dramatic, and this translates quite well in audio form. Ice On the Dune is as otherworldly as the album artwork and costumes they wear in music videos and on stage; more so than Walking on a Dream.
It is also more club oriented than the Walking on a Dream. First single ‘Alive’ is a euphoric summer anthem. It’s hard to not sing along to “loving every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive, alive” and feel a little bit… well, alive.
Opening track, ‘Lux’ sounds like it belongs in a film score (apparently, they’ll be writing the film score to the sequel of Dumb and Dumber), and an invitation to the listener to join them on their journey of adventure, hope, and the search for a better life in a new place, which is where the optimism in the music lies.
This album seems to tell a story chronologically from beginning to end: running away, finding a better place, then settling down with a loved one. Title track ‘Ice on the Dune’ is the one to look out for, with its sparkling synths and lyrics that resonate with anyone who’s ever wanted to run away from wherever they are, escapism seems to be a running theme in their music here.
Ice on the Dune doesn’t sound remotely abstract or inaccessible. In fact, it is a simple album in which everything comes together so well; everything one would expect from Empire of the Sun. Layers of synths, melodic guitar riffs, 4/4 drum beats, and imaginative lyrics brought to life by Luke Steele’s ethereal vocals. Perhaps the only negative is that some of the songs seem to end abruptly, but the uplifting record couldn’t have been released at a better time, and would be great company to your ears if you’re travelling this summer.
By Cindy Tan