Artistic development doesn’t always improve an artist’s work, as the members of Air discovered when their second album, 2001’s 10,000 Hz Legend, disappointed fans and critics expecting another pop masterpiece to rank with their debut, Moon Safari. 10,000 Hz Legend buried the duo’s clear melodic sense underneath an avalanche of rigid performances, claustrophobic productions, and a restless experimentalism that rarely allowed listeners to enjoy what they were hearing. Gone was the freshness evident on Moon Safari: the alien made familiar, the concept that electronic dance could be turned into a user-friendly medium, the illustration of simplicity and space as assets, not liabilities.
Fortunately, Air learned from their mistakes – or, at least, their limitations – leading up to the recording of third album Talkie Walkie, and the happy result is a solid middle ground between both of their previous records. The features are kept to a minimum and the tracks are constructed to sound no more complex than they need to be, even though Air risk the assumption that Talkie Walkie is a simple album. While there’s nothing present to compete with the plodding glory of “Sexy Boy,” Talkie Walkie ultimately succeeds because of Dunckel and Godin’s renewed contentment to produce the tracks they do better than any other – ones with a surface prettiness but no great depth. (It’s no mystery why they’ve been tapped for several scores.) Ironically, the one track here that shrugs off the simplicity of electronic pop is a track first heard in a film, “Alone in Kyoto,” an impressionistic string piece originally composed for the Sofia Coppola film Lost in Translation.