recommended recommended 1/2

This is an odd duck of a record. Late last year, Parisian singer-songwriter Sebastien Tellier released a dance track titled "Sexual Sportswear," produced by Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo. With its smirking title and glassy synths, the song wound up in enough crates and in-boxes and blogs to become a hipster favorite of 2007. It also set up expectations that Tellier has some fun not quite living up to in Sexuality.

For one thing, Tellier is still a singer-songwriter, and even with a veteran knob-tweaker like Homem-Christo at the production helm, much of the album is simple synth pop, fairly ethereal and fairly bland. In spots, like on opening track "Roche," Tellier's singing is so faint it renders the vocals as misty as the album's soft-brushing drum machines and vaporous keyboards. With a little more definition in the mix and Tellier right out front, a song in a similar tone, like "Elle," shines: sweet, simple, sturdy. Nevertheless, as "Sexual Sportswear" and "Fingers of Steel" demonstrate, beat-driven exceptions are where the real action is on this album.

Allegedly, Sexuality is an "ode to lovemaking." Not sure how that works—you'd figure he hoped to simulate sex's peaks and valleys and whatnot. But, generally, lovemaking accretes momentum and this album does anything but. That doesn't necessarily make it a jolting experience, just a relatively even one. Occasionally, Tellier will rev the tempo, as on the brisk "Divine," but mostly he stays at a moderate tempo. Nothing wrong with that, of course—just a curiously cautious course for a guy so obviously full of ideas.