If you haven’t heard of Pnau by now, then it’s time to have a listen. Nick Littlemore, one half of the sonic punch that is Pnau (pronounced pin-yeow ), is a self-professed workaholic with no life. Surely that description can be only half true for the Sydney, Australia native. After releasing three albums and collaborating with electro-pop/rock acts such as Van She and Ladyhawke, Littlemore has developed Pnau into a strong musical piece that has toned down its beat-laden soundscapes in favor of vocal-driven songs, while thankfully keeping some of the beats intact. 2011 has Littlemore living up to his claim as a workaholic: he’s putting the finishing touches on an album created for Cirque du Soleil, recording tracks for his international-hit side venture ‘Empire of the Sun,’ working on a special project spanning Elton John’s catalog, and prepping the live show in support of Pnau’s fourth and finest work yet, Soft Universe.
As the first track ‘Everybody’ slowly fades into your speakers, you’re introduced to an album with beats and rhythms that won’t leave your head long after you’ve turned it off. Pnau has taken what’s worked best for them in songs such as ‘Come Together’, ‘With You Forever’, and ‘Embrace’ from their self-titled album and used it as the framework for a very accessible album, and damn is it catchy! After an initial listen, it may be surprising to learn that Littlemore went through a very painful break-up with his long-term girlfriend during the writing of the album. The magic of ‘Soft Universe’ is that Littlemore taps into a positivity that gives the songs a very up-beat vibe while delivering messages that would otherwise end up accompanying down-trodden emo fare in the wrong hands. While there is some sadness to be found in the lyrics, it’s far too easy and fun to let everything else distract you and that includes how the lyrics are actually sung.
The album’s first two singles are ‘Solid Ground’ and ‘The Truth’, but that probably won’t mean much to you unless you live in Europe or Australia (yes, they’re getting spoon-fed all the good music while we get to listen to sample-heavy rappers and watch Lady Gaga be “outrageous”). While both singles do a good job of representing the tone of the album, they don’t represent the best of it. “Twist of Fate” will be difficult to get out of your head. Other highlights include ‘Unite Us’ featuring a robotic chorus declaring the titular phrase, and ‘Epic Fail’ that’s anything but and shows us that whistling in modern pop can still be pulled off without sounding too gimmicky. The standard version of the album is 10 tracks in length, and unfortunately there are two lulls in it. It seems every artist just needs to throw in a slow song or two for posterity, and while the two offerings here ‘Glimpse’ and ‘Waiting for You’ aren’t terrible songs, one really halts the pace of the album while the other is just not a high note to end on. The i-Tunes version of Universe includes the bonus demo track that serves as a much stronger ending that’s far too good to notice the slight sound-polishing it could otherwise use.
Soft Universe brings us the rebirth of what is now a very solid and strong Pnau. As of the writing of this review the US release of the album has not been scheduled, but if you’re a fan of electro-fused music with head-bobbing beats and memorable choruses, then you must seek it out. While the album’s a bit slim with 10 (or 11) tracks, it’s still quite solid.
This post was written by:
EJ Sam – Who is a contributing writer for Neostar Promotions. When he is not slaving away for the corporate machine, EJ is busy working on his screen-play.