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Au Revoir Simone 

The Bird of Music (Our Secret Record Company)

There's a great video on YouTube of Au Revoir Simone walking through the streets of its native Brooklyn, playing a song on portable keyboards, oblivious to passersby even when they shout catcalls. It sums up this synthy group's appeal perfectly: detached and dreamy, yet very much of the everyday world. The Bird of Music follows 2005's superb debut, Verses of Comfort, Assurance & Salvation. But while Salvation seemed directed at a theoretical audience of likeminded souls ("The people who are always waiting," they even sang), The Bird of Music comes across as self-conscious in comparison. Au Revoir Simone is clearly trying to diversify and stretch its sound, but too many songs float away unnoticed among unison vocals and moody keyboard lines. You're left with about half a solid album; highlights include "Stars," which features some deliciously nerdy come-on lines, and "Dark Halls," which involves a trip to Boston, a hotel, an important call from a doctor and an undercurrent of severely mixed emotions. Au Revoir Simone will yet make their masterpiece — but this isn't it.

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