Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My favourite band of the last 3 years

Air France, easily.

There's no real good reason for me to do this post. Air France does not have new material soon to be released or any such pressing news. I just wanted to get that in writing. My friend Shawn posted an Air France video to his facebook page in 2006. I had never heard of them. I listened. Quite frankly I didn't get it. The music sounded tropical but almost adult contemporary. Then in 2008 when they dropped their second EP No Way Down suddenly every online music publication was calling it one of the best releases of that year. So I listened again. And still did not get it. Then one day it all clicked and I was hooked. I was drawn into their world of balearic haze.

Air France are Joel and Henrik. They are from Sweden. They are on one of the best labels in the world (Sincerely Yours). They have two EPs and a handful of remixes to their credit thus far. But everything they've touched has been solid gold. Now usually you'd think overcast, gray days when you think Sweden (or so I've heard) yet Air France's music is incredibly sunny and somehow evokes images of tropicalia and beach life. Air France are often considered a 'balearic' band. I've used the word balearic in reference to a few bands (ie Korallreven, Houses, Bathcrones) and I just want to draw attention to that genre label for a minute. There is a great definition of Balearic Beat via Wikipedia, but I want to draw attention to something Tim Finney writes: "For me Balearic is shorthand for a special brand of dance music eclecticism, where the self-conscious diversity and obscurantism is somehow dissolved into a “don’t fight it, feel it” love of house as some sort of universal panacea, the beat that your heart makes". And that I think is key to a band like Air France in particular: it doesn't apologize for not trying to re-invent the wheel. This is music you succumb too. It's 'pop' music as pop music should be in the sense that it really can appeal to everyone, not in that pop music as it is, 'let's appeal to the lowest common denominator and treat people like their idiots' way that seems to be on display more and more. There are two sorts of resistances you find to this music: 1) I like pop music, this is too complex 2) I like indie music, this is too accessible. That's why I say this is music you succumb too.

That being said Air France make very intelligent music that is richly textured and has an emotionally evocative quality to it. In No excuses from the 'No Way Down' EP one line is sung again and again " No more excuses left/ waiting to fail/ but not quite yet". Although the fourth of six tracks from the 'No Way Down' EP it is the last line to be sung on the whole of the record. But it sums up Air France quite nicely: it's optimism as a sort of resistance. Or take Collapsing at your Doorsteps sampled refrain; "sort of like a dream/No...better". Again, this line seems so well selected to capture the spirit of the music, as if this is bliss to the nth degree, better than the sweetest of dreams.

This band rewarded repeat listens for me and years later I still find layers of musical as well as emotional depth to these tracks, so I can't suggest enough you have a little patience with this stuff. Sometimes it takes a while to learn a new language.

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