Air: Love 2

Please note that Air’s latest album is Love 2 and not Love 2.0.


Love 2

Label: Astralwerks
US Release Date: 2009-10-06
UK Release Date: 2009-10-05

Please note that Air’s latest album is Love 2 and not Love 2.0. Air is not looking for a radical reinvention. If anything, what they’re presenting is intended to be some kind of sequel to previous efforts, or perhaps a rebranding effort for the emotion of love. Sadly, Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel’s new love is about as ill-advised as New Coke and this makes for a cluttered, uneven, and kinda hokey listen.

The cheeky title signals a retreat from sincerity, but, truth be told, the rejection of kitsch on Pocket Symphony was something of a relief. The band has always retained a partially ironic pose, a knowing wink which precluded the self-annointedly hip's aversion to the junk MOR muzak that Air embraced. To smooth matters further, Air’s has always been a definitive sound -- pulp sci-fi proggy synths, sensual Stax bass, dime store novel romantic strings, XXY androgynous vocals -- whose chromosomal engineering somehow manages to come off more like natural selection than slapdash Frankensound. Yet, the mature Koto-assisted pop loneliness and longing of Pocket Symphony was so elegantly accomplished, it transcended much of the chatter that the band had run out of steam.

Love 2 doesn’t so much sound like a retreat as a regression. Any one of these tracks could be heard in the context of previous work as a B-side. There’s not much bad material, but there’s no real clear standout either. If I had to pick one, it’d probably be the breezy “Heaven’s Light”, which excels mainly by virtue of its evocation of Moon Safari and particularly “Kelly Watch the Stars”. Amidst the rest of the clutter, it’s almost a tranquil and timeless place to reside. “On the way to the heaven’s light / Where the time doesn’t matter," Dunckel sings. It’s as if, with that line, Godin and Dunckel are able to stop time and revel in hazy narcotic bliss after trying so frustratingly hard throughout the rest of the LP.

Even though it is a far better album than 10,000 Hz Legend, Love 2 is more of a disappointment than their sophomore outing. After the success of Moon Safari, it was anybody’s guess whether the band had a second act in them. After proving it possible several years later with Pocket Symphony and Talkie Walkie (which is easily their best album), Love 2’s mediocrity is deeply vexing, particularly since a halfway decent album probably could have squeezed by with a few minor tweaks in things like instrumentation and emphasis.

Reverb is another surprisingly absent presence. Much of what made Air’s mellifluously, practically decadently soft electronica so appealing was the way it seemed to be performed within a puffy cloud. Even when things kicked up a notch, the songs still left gaseous dust trails in their wake. You can check this absence on “Eat My Beat”, which, like the go-go live versions of “Kelly Watch the Stars” and “Marbrouk” on last year’s 10th anniversary edition of Moon Safari, is quite emphatic, but could stand to be… oh, I don’t know… milkier.

“Be a Bee” is similar and tries to run off of the same juice as “Dead Bodies” from the Virgin Suicides soundtrack, but on a battery as old as that film. The Man or Astroman style guitar invited to play on top is almost comically rigid, too stilted to either surf or spy to.

The crunchy guitars and wobbly UFO LFO moogs of “Do The Joy”, on the other hand, are immediately appealing, but the track never lifts off. “Missing the Light of the Day” is the most welcome aberrance from the traditional Air aesthetic, promoting a metropolitan synthpop with squishy bass hits and some stately Gary Numan synths. The vocals however, which seem to harmonize dual channel female voice (or Dunckel on helium) and what sounds like an auto-tuned opposite, are ill-matched and far too uninvolved with the vigorous confidence of the melody to realize the track’s potential.

Dunckel's vocals, so prominent on the last album, are pushed into the backdrop for Love 2. In addition to four instrumentals on this twelve track album, lyrics are essentially irrelevant or ornamental on “Do the Joy” (a lame call and response between a keyboard “do” present and a talkie walkie “the joy”), “Be a Bee” (unintelligible yelping), “Love” (where the only lyric is the title word), and “You Can Tell It to Everybody” (whose full lyrics are “You can tell it to everybody / There is something between us”). On the rest, Dunckel’s signature lisp seems even more prominent, almost to the point of distraction on “Sing Sang Sung”, the obvious first single.

It’s hard to find fault with the latter track. Bringing back the sunny folk guitars, it’s vivacious without harshing your mellow, a staple of classic Air if there ever was one. Teetering the line between Target twee and effervescent and pennaceous moonbeam pop, the song at its brightest still hardly reaches a zenith equivalent to the worst on Talkie Walkie. It’s not at all a poor song. It’s just weak for a centerpiece, as it clearly aims to be. You kind of wish the classic Air impulses might have heeded the advice transcribed into its own verse “What are we doing here my friend? / Take a breath, put the pen away / Nothing lasts / It’s better that way.”


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.