Some musicians prefer center stage, while others take to the background. Air's music seems so tailor-made to be the latter that it may feel out-of-character to confront it head on. But doing so yields its own rewards, especially with Love 2, a winning entry in the band's discography, far better than 2007's disappointing Pocket Symphony. It's more like Talkie Walkie or Moon Safari--the band's best works--favoring warm melodies and an accessible blend of acoustic and synthetic sounds.
"Do the Joy" starts us off with a mix of warm synth melodies, harsh guitar feedback and disjointed vocal samples, followed by "Love," which blends xylophone, synths and choir vocals. "So Light Is Her Footfall" is the first traditionally structured song with a brooding melody scored by synth strings, piano, guitar and the duo's typical hushed vocals. These tracks utilize the group's usual cool, repetitious melodies, making them great for late night ambiance.
Despite mining mostly familiar territory, there's lots to like on Love 2. "Heaven's Light" is a gorgeous track, with warm, cinematic synths and a more upbeat rhythm. Its melody is vaguely reminiscent of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" (a song that those of you who are 35 will credit to Will to Power and those of you who are 25 to Olive). Instrumental "African Velvet" is another standout, with its electric guitar backbone and delightful woodwinds bridge.
One of my complaints about Pocket Symphony was its lack of tempo. Love 2 picks up the pace on songs like "Be a Bee," which edges into rock territory, and disco-ish instrumental "Tropical Disease." But even the slower songs work well, like the sweetly retro "Sing Sang Sung."
This album works well, and I'm glad, for I love Talkie Walkie, Moon Safari and Premiers Symptomes, and was concerned that Pocket Symphony was taking them in the wrong direction. I've been listening to Love 2 while lounging and working around the house the last couple days, and while it works great just playing in the background, it's a satisfying listen head on as well.
Best: Heaven's Light, African Velvet, So Light Is Her Footfall, Tropical Disease