Ever since Air's instant-classic debut album, 1998's "Moon Safari", the French duo has sought to try and follow up to and meet that high standard. Their output since then has divided the fan base. I, for one, absolutely love the often-maligned 2001's "10,000 Hz Legend" album, but was disappointed with 2004's "Talkie Walkie" album. Now comes the new album.
"Pocket Symphony" (12 tracks, 48 min.) is as atmospheric as Air will get while not making a movie soundtrack. The instrumental opener "Space Maker" sets the stage. First single (in the UK--can you imagine Air getting a single released in the US?) "Once Upon a Time" is a beautiful dreamscape. Jarvis Cocker is the vocalist on "One Hell of a Party", which reminds me almost of cabaret-style music. Another instrumental "Mayfair Song" flowes into "Left Bank", bringing the duo back home. "Mer du Japon" ironically enough does not feature some of the Japanese sounds found on several other tracks here (such as the beautiful "Somewhere between Waking and Sleeping" and "Redhead Girl"), and in fact I find this song to be somehwat out of whack with the rest of the album. The instrumental closer "Night Shift" is the perfect ending to this album.
Is this album as good as "Moon Safari"? No, but Air may never be that good again, who knows. That said, "Pocket Symphony" is a fine album, which I have been enjoying ever since its release a few months ago. I happen to catch Air at Coachella in late April, and due to technical difficulties they only put on a brief set, which was very disappointing. I'd love to see them again in concert in better circumstances.