Today, in a letter posted on their Tumblr, Joel Karlsson and Henrik Markstedt—Air France—announced their retirement. Though they hinted list year at a new album, the weight of producing a followup to 2008's No Way Down has proven too much: "We have decided to stop trying," they wrote, "even though it breaks our hearts." They're my favorite band, the band whose music most directly pokes acupuncture pins into my guts. They're the puzzle-piece band who figured out how Lisa Stanfield, Gothenburg daybreak and anxious desire fit together; they're the sound of just the right number of umbrella-drinks and the sound of breaking up and feeling good about having a future. For me it’s Air France forever, and to Air France, always: thanks.
In their goodbye, after a touching list of fond memories, which include being smiled at by Larry David in Paris and being sampled by Lil B, they say: "We have probably produced 7 albums since No Way Down; a UK Garage record, a house record, an R&B record… but we’ve never been able to finish anything, nothing was ever good enough. We have tried so hard, and we truly gave it all we had." This is fucked up and sad, but not unsurprising. One of the songs on No Way Down is called "Never Content." The lyrics to another song are: No more excuses left/ waiting to fail, but not quite yet. Despite the sunny percussion and the lapping samples of beach waves, the emotional weight of Air France has always been a sort of near-paralyzing nervousness, like their music is the black-out, out-of-body experience you have while finally conquering your fears.
It's just rough for it to end this way because caring so much is what makes their music great. Maybe this retirement letter is like Kafka's will, where he asked a friend to burn all his manuscripts, unread, upon his death, only for those great works to sneak out and make the world better. Maybe we haven't heard the last. Maybe this is their way of releasing themselves from the pressure of an identity, to set out in new clothes for somewhere pretty where "Windmill Wedding" hangs in the air not like a specter but like a happy breeze. It's wishful and selfish thinking, but I just want to hear another song. More than that, though, I hope when they wake up tomorrow they'll both be smiling.