Essential: "Somewhere Between Waking and Sleeping"
At the risk of sounding like a bad parent (or a bad music critic): "Pocket Symphony," why can't you be more like your older brother, "Moon Safari" ? Of course, no one wants a band to make the same album repeatedly. We already have Nickelback for that, thanks. But in the case of "Pocket Symphony," Air, the French duo that has built a following for its quivering electronic landscapes and quirky Gallic pop, is strongly hinting at the tone of "Moon Safari," its 1998 breakthrough album. Unlike recent efforts, such as 2004's "Talkie Walkie," "Pocket Symphony" takes a mostly introspective turn toward instrumentals and free-form songs. Ten years ago, Air perfected this genre with the breathtaking loneliness of "Le Soleil est Pres de Moi." On "Pocket Symphony," the beauty is there, but the gorgeous sadness seems to be replaced by boredom on tracks such as "Space Maker" and the particularly tedious "Night Sight." Where "Pocket Symphony" springs to life are tracks when Nicolas Godin and J.B. Dunckel dabble with 1960s-influenced folk-pop. By the time Air collaborates with Neil Hannon on another demure and lovely folk-pop tune, it becomes clear that perhaps "Pocket Symphony" needs to be less like "Moon Safari" and Air needs to get in touch with its inner Harry Nilsson once and for all. [Christopher Muther]