CD Review : Air, “Love 2”

The French duo, Air, has been celebrated for their unique melding of futuristic synth-pop beats and nostalgic seventies references. In 1998, their debut LP, Moon Safari, made many year-end top-10 lists and solidified their place among Europe’s most renowned digital masters (like Daft Punk and Kraftwerk). In the following years, Air found even more success, refining their image and songwriting with Talkie Walkie and 2007’s Pocket Symphony. One might assume, then, that their most recent effort — and ninth overall — would continue this trend. Disappointingly, however, Love 2 comes across as the group’s most bland and superficial record to date — an unexpected regression that will leave many dissatisfied.

Surprisingly, Love 2 doesn’t seem like a radical departure from Air’s previous work. There are promising bits in nearly every track here, but they are inevitably overwhelmed by some kind of frivolous hook or misplaced melody. The opener “Do the Joy,” for example, begins as a distorted, slow-paced, crescendo, but is quickly botched by an irritating synthesizer tone that carries the melody. On the second track “Love,” the lyrical emptiness is emphasized, and not deliberately so, by detached and minimalist beats. The trend of murmuring voices continues on the upbeat “Sing Sang Sung,” which is almost incomprehensible and somewhat empty.

At its best, Love 2 can be an enjoyable listen. “So Light is Her Footfall” benefits from smooth, space-age instrumentals featuring bold string effects reminiscent of the tone that Moon Safari successfully embodied. Another standout, “You Can Tell It to Everybody” is a gradual, melancholy, jaunt that has a profoundly calming effect and soothing vocals.

Perhaps where this album suffers most is in its disjointed nature. There’s a weak sense of transition between the songs on Love 2, so much so that a common theme is hardly recognizable, and the actually good tracks are overshadowed by the out-of-place ones. While this marks Air’s first foray into self-production (at their new studio, “Atlas”), it seems as if the duo has lost touch with the style that made them famous: transcending the simple pop song with an end product that is actually beautiful to hear.