You know those bands that everyone talks about but you never get the chance to check them out? This is one of those cases. I never knew anyone who listened to Air on any regular basis, and bands that have extremely simple names never really seem to stick in my mind. Plus, when I hear the word electronica, it doesn’t exactly send me running to the nearest Tower Records (yes, they’re all gone, but I like to keep the spirit alive). But, luckily for me, I’m an adventurous listener, and I decided to check out Air’s newest effort, Pocket Symphony.
For those who don’t know, Air is a French duo usually dubbed as electronica, and they don’t stray too far on their latest effort. You might recognize Air songs from their 1998 soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides or one of their tracks placed in various commercials and TV shows over the years. This is their first release since their 2004 spastically-reviewed album, Talkie Walkie.
The opening track, “Space Maker,” begins with a lone echoing percussion beat, setting the tone perfectly. Slowly, an acoustic guitar, a piano, and a bass line come in and work together to really just bring a foggy afternoon to mind. Different keyboard sounds give the track an electronic overtone, but the melodies are softer than what you would expect. This leads into “Once Upon a Time,” the first track on the album to have any singing. Similar melodies work perfectly with the quiet female vocals, dripping in a French accent.
Pocket Symphony holds itself together pretty well throughout. There are a few songs that hold true to Air’s earlier sound to satisfy those disappointed with their last full-length release. There are also a handful of songs like “Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping” and “Night Sight” that you can’t help but compare to American contemporaries like the Album Leaf. The album seems to touch on all kinds of sub-genres and pull it off; “Left Bank” almost sounds like an Elliott Smith outtake.
I’ll be honest; I didn’t know much about Air before I picked up this album this past spring. But Pocket Symphony definitely won me over with the soft melodies and vocals combined with an ambient electronic feel. Perhaps this is not what long-time fans expected, but I think that it’s a solid album standing on its own. Not all the songs are perfect, but if you’re a fan of Air’s brand of ambient, electronic-heavy melodies, there’s no way you can turn your back on it.
8.6 / 10
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