Of all of Air‘s albums, 2007’s Pocket Symphony is definitely one of my favourites. The hits might have been eluding them by this stage, but the album was well received, and for me it remains Air‘s last great studio album (2009’s follow-up Love 2 has little to love, Le Voyage dans la Lune is a good extension of a soundtrack, and Music for Museum is a little too avant garde for my tastes).
It opens, as all good Air albums do, with something soft and gentle – in the case of Pocket Symphony, it’s the adorable Space Maker. There’s already a certain spaciousness to the piece, with a bit of melancholy as well – gone is the simplicity of the first album, and the daftness of the second – this is the sound of a group who are entirely comfortable in their skins and with their sound.
Lead single Once Upon a Time is the second track, with a lovely rippling piano arpeggio. In an earlier age, this would have been a huge hit single, but in 2007 it only got a French release and only had one b-side.
Of all people, Jarvis Cocker turns up to deliver the vocal on One Hell of a Party, and does an exceptional job. The melancholic side of Air – not really explored too deeply on earlier releases – is really rather beautiful, and Cocker’s lyrics and vocal performance are both sad and sweet.
But there’s also plenty of Air‘s traditional sound here – Napalm Love is a sweet love song, and Mayfair Song is a charming instrumental. Left Bank is another sweet, lonely acoustic piece, and their ode to pop superstars Photograph is very pleasant too.
The second and final single – and the only one in the UK, although you could have been forgiven for failing to notice its release – was Mer du Japon, a very simple one-line song which apparently was written to honour the Pacific Ocean. It’s a little too simple in some ways, but it’s a pleasant piece nonetheless.
The instrumental Lost Message follows, and then Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy fame turns up to sing the adorable Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping. It might not have been destined to be a hit single, but it’s a great song even so, and a very worthwhile collaboration.
By this point the album is pretty much over – the vocal Redhead Girl and instrumental Night Sight close the album in gentle fashion, and it’s finished already. This may not be Air‘s most famous works, but it’s definitely one of their most consistent and finest hours.
You can still find Pocket Symphony at all major retailers. There are a few bonus tracks, either on the digital versions or using “OpenDisc” technology (no I don’t know either) on the CD.