Air, "Love 2" (Virgin) [2 OUT OF 4 STARS]
As their protégés in Phoenix take America by storm with a more upbeat, dance-oriented slant on the atmospheric French synth-pop that they pioneered, it would be easy to confine studio wizards Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin to the dustbin of history: "Love 2" is their sixth studio album, and like their other releases, it doesn't measure up to their finest moment, the 1998 masterpiece "Moon Safari."
How is this Air album different from all the others? Well, it's the first the duo has produced on its own at its new studio, Atlas, and the first to feature a flesh and blood drummer, Joey Waronker. But that's it. Otherwise, we have the usual trance/sleep-inducing grooves, the familiar backgrounds of retro/futuristic analog synthesizer drones, washes and bleeps and echo-laden guitars, and those oh-so-French Serge Gainsbourg-on-'ludes spoken-sung vocals. And it's all beginning to sound pretty tired.
Yet while there are some ultra-disposable toss-offs here--chief among them the gently jaunty but exceedingly slight "Love," with lyrics that feature nothing but that word repeated again and again until you start to hate it--there are just enough strong tunes to reward fans' loyalty, including the instrumentals "Eat My Beat" and "Tropical Disease." These are enough to save Air from the accusation that it's run out of steam, but they do suggest the group should perhaps confine itself in the future to soundtracks such as the one it crafted for "The Virgin Suicides" in 2000.
Various artists, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack" (Chop Shop/Atlantic) [3 out of 4 STARS]
"The world is a vampire," Billy Corgan sang back in the mid-'90s, but the Great Pumpkin was ahead of his time: These days, it's impossible to sit in front of a television or movie screen without catching some glimpse of the undead--now all unnaturally beautiful teens or twentysomethings--set to appropriately moody post-alternative dinner music. No one has made these pairings more skillfully, however, than that master musical sommelier, Chicago native Alexandra Patsavas, the in-demand music supervisor who scores "Grey's Anatomy" and "Gossip Girl," and now the second installment of "The Twilight Saga," the new film "New Moon."
It's a testament to both Patsavas' reputation as a tastemaker and the massive popularity of all things "Twilight" that the soundtrack includes some real coups, with artists who rarely contribute to this sort of project, including a fabulously creepy solo track from Radiohead's Thom Yorke; inspired collaborations between indie darlings Bon Iver and St. Vincent ("Roslyn") and Grizzly Bear and Victoria Legrand of Beach House ("Slow Life"), and worthy contributions from Death Cab for Cutie, Lykke Li, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Killers, whose mix of glam-rock bombast is leavened with just the right touch of self-parody here on "A White Demon Love Song."
Even if you think tween vampire flicks suck, there are plenty of good moments here to download for your Halloween party. Just be sure not to listen in the sunlight.