I’ve been listening to Air over the past few days…the band just popped into my head unbidden, and I’ve been searching for a good, laid-back soundtrack for my extended editing sessions lately, so it was a perfect fit. Their debut Moon Safari was released on this day back in 1998 (which puts it right in the middle of my HMV years), but it’s so retro in its sound that you swear it came out in 1972 on some budget label and got played at K-Mart when you were a kid. It of course ended up on heavy rotation during my writing sessions down in the basement.
In 2000 they released the soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, based on the Jeffrey Eugenides book. That too got heavy rotation for me, with its spooky, dark passages. [Trivia: I didn’t know this until many years later that the singer for “Playground Love” is none other than the singer for Phoenix, going under the name Gordon Tracks.] It kind of fit the mood I was in at the time as well, considering I’d just been shuffled out of the HMV job and wasn’t exactly sure where my next step was going to be.
They may have lost me a bit on album two (three?), 10,000 Hz Legend, but I think that’s because they’d chosen to update their sound a bit, bring the melodies forward a decade or two. It took me a few years to get used to this one, and it’s got some great tracks on it, including a cameo vocal from Beck on “The Vagabond”.
Now the next album, Talkie Walkie, is probably my favorite of theirs, even over Moon Safari. They hit their stride here, balancing their retro-synth sound perfectly with some lovely modern melodies. They also provided an absolutely gorgeous track called “Alone in Kyoto” for Sofia Coppola’s next film Lost in Translation:
I’m still trying to get used to the next couple of albums (2007’s Pocket Symphony and 2009’s Love 2), most likely because my mind was elsewhere at the time, adjusting to our lives here in SF. Eventually they’ll come to me. Their most recent album, Le Voyage Dans la Lune from 2012, is fascinating in that it’s a soundtrack for Georges Méliès’ 1902 film of the same name. And Nicolas Godin (the fair-haired one of the duo) just released a solo album of Bach-inspired songs called Contrepoint, which I’m hoping will eventually see release stateside sometime this year.