It’s hard to believe that Australian super-duo Empire of the Sun’s debut hit album Walking on a Dream was released nearly five years ago back in 2008.

For an Australian band to sell over a million copies of an album, in this digital age no less, is a fairly amazing achievement and a feat that only happens every few years. It begs the question; how do you follow that up? Well Empire of the Sun’s Luke Steele (The Sleepy Jackson) and Nick Littlemore (Pnau) have allowed the music to answer the question. And new album Ice on the Dune is a hell of a return.

In the humble opinion of this reviewer it is far (yes far) better than its predecessor. It might not contain the radio-friendly hits of Walking on a Dream, it is however, far more consistent, with the gap between the album’s best and worse tracks much smaller.

After a rather annoying and pointless minute-and-a-half instrumental “mood building” opener, the album proper kicks off with ‘DNA’. Surprisingly featuring a rather catchy acoustic (yes you heard right: acoustic!) guitar part throughout the track, it is immediately likeable and engaging. It is indicative of the record as a whole actually, one that is far more enjoyable from the first spin than album number one as there aren’t so much stand out tracks as a disc full of enjoyable jams.

That being said there are always going to be songs that you prefer or that grab you a little more than others. One being the title-track ‘Ice on the Dune’. It's a poppy and atmospheric affair that is as synth happy as it is mystical. Lead single ‘Alive’ is the most similar to their old stuff and despite many high notes from singer Luke Steele, it still has the lower vocals that many hits off the first album have.

‘Concert Pitch’ sees the duo detach themselves from the cookie cutter Empire of the Sun mold somewhat and go for a more dance-pop number with stronger, more prominent confident vocals. On the whole however, the vocals are much softer than they sounded on their last album. Steele’s singing sounds almost more like just another instrument or computer-manufactured drum beat than vocals if you aren’t paying close attention as it tends to blend into the music.

Ice on the Dune is a stellar effort, that despite the timing of the release, will probably still be the soundtrack to the 13/14 summer and feature on ads for brands like Coca-Cola. This album might not translate particularly well live, that given it’s worth noting that Nick Littlemore basically never shows up to their gigs these days. If he decides to then perhaps their live aesthetic may improve considerably.

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