Air – Pocket Symphony: A Little Side Step

For these past couple weeks, tunequest has been counting down to Air’s fifth full-length record, Pocket Symphony, which was finally released a few days ago. I’ve had it long enough to give it a handful of thorough listens and I can tell you that this thing oozes craftsmanship. The numbers don’t lie and after rating all the songs on the album, I’ll confirm that this is good stuff.

Upfront, let me say that I like Pocket Symphony. It is quintessentially Air; there’s no doubt about that. Sensually cool, in that singularly French way, Pocket Symphony lives up to expectations. But… it all feels a little too familiar.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m going out of my way to say that I really enjoy this record and that I don’t think that it’s artistically disappointing in any way. It’s just that there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking at work here. Perhaps after ten years, the band has hit its stride and is confident in its sound. But for a group who has sounded just-so-perceptively different on each album, it’s hard to not have been eager to hear whatever new departure or tangent the duo had decided to explore. Pocket Symphony sounds like it could have been recorded at the same time as Talkie Walkie.

To be sure, the mood is different: more sombre and tense than the “mellow exuberance” that marked Talkie Walkie. Still, its form, if not its function, are similar to its predecessor. Indeed, Pocket Symphony might well be called “Talkie Walkie After Dark,” but don’t go searching for it รก Quartier Pigalle. With its precisely crafted, yet restrained sound, this music sounds like it would be more at home at a stiff, upper-crust soiree than in the back room of an after party at a trendy night club.

But if courtly dress up affairs aren’t you’re thing, Pocket Symphony also makes for some perfect wind-down music for a 3AM drive through the city.

The album’s first single, Once upon a Time, features afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen on drums (to great effect). Watch the video:

My Library

Air: Pocket Symphony (2007)
13 tracks (of 13)
Average Rating: 4.25
Median Rating: 4
Mode Rating: 4
Signature Track: Mer du Japon

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