From the first bass note, the music immediately brings to mind Serge Gainsbourg’s legacy. Be it the texture of drums or the bewitching repeated melodies, Serge’s heritage is omnipresent, with reminiscences of Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais, La Ballade de Melody Nelson, etc.
5:55 takes you to a whole new universe, of Air’s inimitable melodies, Cocker’s brisk lyrics, Campbell’s ethereal strings, Nigel’s perfect sound, and Charlotte’s soft voice. One couldn’t dream of a better team for creating such soft melodic pop.
Air seems to have returned to the swirling and swooshing sounds of early debut album Moon Safari, but with the simplicity of the recent Talkie Walkie or City Reading: acoustic piano, guitar and bass often suffice to build a whole acoustic atmosphere. As for Cocker’s lyrics, they are often coquettish but never cocky, and their gentle innocence perfectly fits Charlotte Gainsbourg’s whispered voice. For if the crafting of the music was entrusted to many, she contributes her spirit to every bit of it.
A team of geniuses obviously generates high expectations, which the album majestically lives up to, with a varied yet consistent collection of songs: a steady chase lead by a piano and bass duo (The Operation), an insistent rebuttal morphing into ethereal waves (Jamais), an anthem to the little things in one’s life (The Songs That We Sing), a rhythmic piece featuring a mysterious reversed Q&A (Night-time Intermission), or an aerial track which is just what you’d hear in your sleep if you were dreaming of a singing stewardess (AF607105).
Finally, Little Monster, a precious diamond in this jewel box of an album. Simple drums rescued from Universal Traveler, and a simple duo of piano arpeggios and a calm bass are enough to support Charlotte’s voice. Air’s arsenal is picked with restraint: a glockenspiel, a touch of solina strings, aerial synths, some dreamy choruses. This song perfectly demonstrates the soft beauty of simplicity.
A delicious bubble of acoustic marvel, seemingly crafted with ease by discreet yet vivid talents, all united by Gainsbourg’s music.