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However, Pocket Symphony doesn't feel as serenely untouchable as some of Air's previous work, and these darker cracks and wrinkles give it character. These songs are often unsettling, but gently so, like dreams that are still vivid but hard to explain upon waking. The Neil Hannon-sung "Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping" is the most obvious example of Pocket Symphony's fever dream atmosphere, but there are plenty of others: "Photograph," a quintessentially sensuous Air track, gives the impression of something a little sinister occurring just out of frame; "Redhead Girl" is a lush meditation on unrequited love so paralyzing that time itself stops. The entire album deals with toxic love and its fallout, but Dunckel and Godin alternate between romanticizing heartbreak and showing just how dreary it can be -- although, skilled mood-makers that they are, they manage to make dreary sound pretty romantic, too. The deceptively delicate single "Once Upon a Time" darkens its fairy tale imagery with the fact that once upon a time might be never, while the outstanding "One Hell of a Party," which features Jarvis Cocker on vocals, presents a breakup as a hangover (a sentiment Cocker also explored brilliantly on Pulp's This Is Hardcore).
Pocket Symphony pairs Air with producer Nigel Godrich, which is an inspired choice -- not just because Godrich has a similarly atmospheric touch and adds lots of fascinating sonic details, but because he helps Air keep the album intimate, not polished into a state of distant perfection. "Left Bank," which blends humming with a cello and captures Godin's acoustic guitar so clearly it sounds like he's strumming it behind you, is a gorgeous example of how well this collaboration works. The Japanese influence on Talkie Walkie and Air's music for Lost in Translation is deepened on Pocket Symphony, with shamisen and koto (which Godin spent a year learning to play) adding to its ethereal beauty, particularly on "Mer du Japon." Musically and thematically, this is some of Air's most elegant, mature music; it does what it does so compellingly that any attempts to be "poppy" would miss the point.
1 Space Maker 4:02
2 Once Upon A Time 5:02
3 One Hell Of A Party 4:02
4 Napalm Love 3:27
5 Mayfair Song 4:18
6 Left Bank 4:07
7 Photograph 3:51
8 Mer Du Japon 3:04
9 Lost Message 3:32
10 Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping 3:35
11 Redhead Girl 4:33
12 Night Sight 4:20
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