Air - Pocket Symphony

2007-05-08 13:54
Even with a French accent, five albums is a long time to stay interesting, but Air have pulled it off on this quirkily-titled new CD.

They achieve alt-pop longevity by applying the old "Less is More" principle, and stripping down for a sound that is odder on some tracks, and sexier than ever on others. More than just shag music for the trend-aware, anything by Air is still guaranteed to push your musical frontiers, always pleasantly.

As always, they've absorbed and channelled alternative pop hits old and new. Chewing them up and spitting them out as a smoothie. There's Smashing Pumpkins on E in "Once Upon a Time" and Gorillaz on "Somewhere between Waking and Sleeping".

Though some tracks are chirpier than others, few of them are likely to insist on a slot in your memory, the way many on Talkie Walkie did. Air's pop sensibility remains undeniable, but Pocket Symphony is mostly an elegant, transient, but not completely forgettable, experience that feels more like a movie soundtrack with piano-pop leanings, than it does like an album.

Catchier numbers such as "Napalm Love", "Mer du Japon" and the awesome "Redhead Girl" are outnumbered by impressionist interludes, and through changes of pace, it all holds together. In the end, light layers of perfectly produced notes, coolly compelling rhythms and ethereal romantic images will leave you bemused, soothed, and intellectually afloat without putting you to sleep.

If you're looking for a more accessible (but sillier) introduction to this band, their previous album Talkie Walkie is certainly a better bet (though Pocket Symphony is getting more shelf space).

Existing fans will enjoy their successful, if unfamiliar return.

- Jean Barker

Predictably, French modernist-pop duo Air have taken another unpredictable tack with "Pocket Symphony", an album that's anything but a symphony, more of a lullaby that's just interesting enough to keep you up at night.

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