PNAU have finally released their new album Soft Universe, after a whole lot of elusiveness, side projects and mystery – and it's quite different from their self-titled 2007 release, to say the least.
The main hype surrounding Soft Universe is that Sir Elton John has a large amount of involvement on the record after taking the duo under his wing, so to speak. John's influence is evident throughout the album, steering PNAU towards a more synth-pop sound. There is a lot less vocal distortion on Soft Universe - instead, a more natural style has been adopted for Nick Littlemore's distinctive vocals this time around.
The strongest tracks in my opinion are actually the two current singles - “The Truth” and “Solid Ground”. They are both catchy, summery, soon-to-be-festival-favourites, and are reminiscent of PNAU's earlier work (perhaps “Embrace”-esque). “Solid Ground” does sound a little like it belongs on an Empire of the Sun (Littlemore's side project with Luke Steele) album, but it's an excellent track all the same.
You wouldn't ever expect a band like PNAU to release a song called “Epic Fail”, but surprisingly the song isn't as awful as it's title – it's quite an uplifting track that could easily be a possible single off the album. I found “Something Special” to not be very special at all – actually, it was one of the weakest songs on the album due to its blatant unoriginality. It really doesn't feel like a PNAU song.
I think PNAU have definitely taken a bold step away from their previous 'Electronica' label and moved into more solid synthesised electro-pop. There's less distortion and less ambition on Soft Universe than on PNAU's other records. From being pioneers of Australian electronica they have slipped to following the herd of American and British electronica and it is a little disappointing. However, although it's not really unique or new, each track is extremely memorable, catchy and great to dance to. If it had been released by anyone else, it would easily be a fantastic album – but knowing what PNAU can do, I can't help feeling a little ripped off. Soft Universe will no doubt become this summer's soundtrack, but I hope that for the next album PNAU lift their game.
Review Score: 6.5/10