Empire of the Sun came off so deliberately cheesy and over-the-top on their debut album, Walking on a Dream
, it would’ve been easy to dismiss them, were their songs not so damn catchy. They double down on their sci-fi prog-pop personas for Ice on the Dune
, mixing analog synths and acoustic guitars with huge, pop-radio friendly production on “DNA” in an obvious attempt to re-create the success of mega singles “Walking on the Sun” and “We Are the People” — one which could work, given that they pretty much nail it. Working with hit-making producers, the duo comes up with a series of shoutalong, psych-pop songs, like “Alive” (“Lovin’ every minute ’cause you make me feel so alive!”), which you can immediately imagine being sung in unison by masses of people at prom or an outdoor show. “Concert Pitch” comes off a bit like a dancier Killers, but EOTS are smarter, more daring songwriters; singer Luke Steele gets breathy like a Bee Gee at a smooth chorus that wraps you in its arms. Anyone who complains the group is just trying to get on the radio can be directed toward a song like “Keep a Watch,” a lush, ’70s soul ballad more in line with Chicago and 10CC than David Guetta or Fun. Even when you don’t want to like them for all their garishness, Empire of the Sun are basically too catchy to resist, and songs like “Ice on the Dune” and “Awakening” are really lovely songs beneath their loud veneer. It’ll be interesting to see how radio responds to the oddball pop of Ice on the Dune
, but for their part, Empire of the Sun have managed to craft a solid pop album that sounds relevant to what much of America’s youth listens to while keeping in line with their glam-rock and soft-rock influences.