POP/ROCK: Air, "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" (EMI/Astralwerks)
Heavily referential but only barely ironic, the work of the French duo Air conjures easy listening, new age, 1970s German prog-rock and Pink Floyd's symphonic psychedelia. It's not much in and of itself; it often feels like a sophisto-kitsch tribute to its sources or its analog synthesizers and goes naturally with visual images.
For "Le Voyage Dans La Lune," the duo's seventh album -- including its 2000 soundtrack for Sofia Coppola's film "The Virgin Suicides" -- it has connected with George Melies' 15-minute film "Le Voyage Dans La Lune," made in 1902, recently restored and also put into the heart of Martin Scorsese's film "Hugo." The two foundations in charge of the restoration job -- Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage -- commissioned Air to score the film, which was presented on opening night of last year's Cannes Film Festival.
The soundtrack moves quickly through moods and motifs, following the action of the film. (You can see the film and hear Air's soundtrack on a bonus disc included with a limited edition of the new album.) And the record builds on and elongates some of those themes, with beats and occasional breathy singing -- is there any other kind, for Air? -- by Victoria Legrand of Beach House and the Brooklyn duo Au Revoir Simone.
It's good that the band and the film found each other, although "Hugo" will eclipse this small achievement. The Melies film is lumpy but beautiful, with real fears and dreams about technology, alien life-forms and colonization lurking underneath the story; you can follow the illusion without spending much time thinking about the materials and the process. Air's music for it, whether rhythmic or choral, static or episodic, minimalist or anthemic, is slight and smooth as glass. -BEN RATLIFF, NEW YORK TIMES
POP/ROCK: Tennis, "Young and Old" (Fat Possum)
As a prelude to their second album, Tennis released covers of songs from Brenda Lee, the Zombies and Broadcast, and those three artists, especially the first two, suggest a few of the Denver band's templates. Like their peers in Best Coast and Cults, Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore are enamored of the sweet, orchestrated though done in homespun fashion.
Credit producer Patrick Carney of the Black Keys for the tougher and sharper sound of "Young and Old" in comparison to last year's "Cape Dory," although the girl-group melodies and Phil Spector-ish drumbeats remain. Tennis songs are shamelessly nostalgic, and part of the fun is hearing the echoes of the past reverberating throughout this brief album, whether of Brenda Lee, Duane Eddy or early Motown. Riley and Moore are less comfortable toying with soul and samples on "Petition," but "Young and Old" proves that this young band is adept at seducing with old styles. -STEVE KLINGE, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER