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Talkie Walkie (Astralwerks)

Since the outer-space lounge-lizard glow of Moon Safari, their 1998 debut, became the soundtrack du jour for denizens of overpriced martini bars, Parisian cool cats JB Dunckel and Nicolas Godin have taken great pains to avoid repeating themselves on subsequent discs.

While the creepy, robotic, after-hours coldness of 2001's 10,000 Hz Legend was an unfortunate casualty of Air's experimentation, Talkie's own eerie ambiance has an organic feel, thanks to the duo's decision to handle lead singing duties for the first time. The cotton-candy-spun vocal layering and extraterrestrial keyboards on "Run" make it sound like a ghostly music box, "Another Day" resembles a less-theatrical gothic dirge, and "Biological" twinkles like an outtake from the Edward Scissorhands score. Yet Talkie feels largely detached from the enveloping, woozy warmth that made Safari so magical. With their fluttering guitar strums and crystalline rhythmic precision, "Cherry Blossom Girl" and "Alone in Kyoto" conjure the stylized but distant delicacy of a Japanese tea garden. Air knows how to sculpt aesthetically beautiful tunes; imbuing them with deeper emotional resonance would have made Talkie more inviting.

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