Air is one of those unique bands that have fans in both the popular world and the indie world. Daring and creative enough to satisfy the ears of hardened music freaks, but catchy and simple enough to please commercial pop fans, they’ve found devotees on both sides of the music spectrum. From the space lounge jazz of Premiers Symptomes, to the summery sounds of Moon Safari, to the robotic electro pop of 10,000 Hz Legend, the French duo has racked up a massive amount of admirers, loved by everyone from esoteric hipster kids to casual radio listeners.
Their newest release, Talkie Walkie, keeps with the band’s tradition of solid albums chock full of hook-laden electronic pop, and is arguably their best one yet. One of the most widely-reviewed and listened-to albums of the year so far, I’d be willing to guess that just about everyone reading this review has probably already listened to it. Still, I’ll give it a write-up, if only to fill up space, or for posterity’s sake. But for those who haven’t yet heard it, you need not read much further to know that Talkie Walkie, though dabbling in new styles here and there, is for the most part more of the same Air we’ve come to know and love, which is good news for fans and bad news for detractors. It speaks for itself.
“Venus” opens the album on a very strong note, an ethereal pop song with piano and hand-claps and love song lyrics that, depending on how you look at it, are either sweetly beautiful or tacky and sappy, the stuff inoffensive soft rock is built on. Love them or hate them, it’s hard not to like this simple but wonderful opener. “Cherry Blossom Girl” is all acoustic guitar and breathy vocals, with beats that snap like bubble gum bubbles, and all of the summertime love that coated The Virgin Suicides OST.
“Run” is next, and it is without a doubt one of the best songs on the album, and quite possibly the best song the band has done. Eerie and dark, it evokes some of the songs of 10,000 Hz Legend, with a beautiful chorus of delayed vocals and new age-y keyboards. I’m not one to proclaim a song the “song of the year,” but if I were, this would certainly be a contender.
Lying at the center of the album, “Mike Mills,” named after their former artistic director, is one of the few instrumental tracks on the album. And it’s a beauty. With soft and warm keyboards, percussion that skips like a bike chain, and synth strings, it’s an oh-so-nice listen that makes up for the somewhat weak track that precedes it. “Surfing On A Rocket,” bless its stupid lyrics, is another great, bass-y pop song in the tradition of “Sexy Boy” and “People In The City.”
The album continues with several more strong tracks and rarely misses a beat (the whistling in “Alpha Beta Gaga” is one of the few times it does), before the album comes to rest on the soothing and dreamy “Alone In Kyoto.” Thematically, it’s decidedly Asian (it was featured in Lost In Translation), with plucked acoustic guitar — or is it samisen? — and soft keyboards, and is as delicate as a cherry blossom tree.
It’s a great way to close a great album. Though some of the songs are stronger than others, there isn’t really a weak track here, and Air has once again created an awesome piece of work. As I said before, it’s Air, so for those who can’t stand the band’s occasional cheesiness or distinct French-ness, don’t expect this one to convert you. But for the many fans, there’s plenty to love here, and the album — for all its solidarity, for all its hooks, for all its beauty — is a classic in the same league as all of their previous albums. It’s one of the year’s best.
But you probably already knew that.
Written by Richie DeMaria.