The air was thick with anticipation one recent weeknight at Halcyon, the DJ lounge on Brooklyn's tre{grv}s chic Smith Street. The venue is equal parts cafe, nightclub and record store (they do sell a few CDs, but the emphasis is on vinyl recordings), and during its three years in business, this former doctor's office has hosted a multitude of leading deejays from around the world.

But the star attraction on this particular evening wasn't there to play the latest hybrid of house music or the latest strain of electro or techno, or even to offer a brand-new sound. Instead, the guest deejays, Andy Connell and Corinne Drewery of the group Swing Out Sister, were playing music from the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Swing Out Sister last had a hit in North America 10 years ago, and even then its sound was decidedly vintage; its music harked back to the elegant songcraft of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. As Drewery and Connell chose records and manipulated the turntables, they greeted an A-list of well-wishers that included many of the top deejays on the New York scene. Meanwhile the crowd settled back in sofas and lounge chairs to groove to songs like the 5th Dimension's "Love's Lines, Angles and Rhymes," Steely Dan's "The Fez" and, of course, Young-Holt Unlimited's "Soulful Strut" (the 1969 instrumental hit that formed the basis of the 1992 Swing Out Sister song "Am I the Same Girl"). The club amplified the nostalgic mood by playing DVDs of "Klute" and the original "Thomas Crown Affair" on a screen behind the deejay booth, and as the evening wore on it became apparent that although the music certainly wasn't new, it had an attribute that has grown scarce in contemporary popular music: melody.

Although melody has been in decline in popular music since the heyday of Tin Pan Alley, that fall has accelerated during the last two decades. Since the mid-'80s or so, pop has been dominated by the emergence of hip-hop rhythms and the sampler, a component that enables the user to mix snippets of other recorded songs into an existing track. (Turntables allow this, too, but their use for this purpose requires far greater skill.)

This has resulted in a tag-team assault on melody. Hip-hop's popularity and influence has made rhythm the predominant element in pop songs, and samples allow artists and producers to get away with referencing the melody of an older song without creating an equally strong one in the new work. The appetite for melody hasn't vanished, however; just look at the hero's welcome received by the relatively staid, derivative -- though comparatively melodic -- music of Norah Jones, Alicia Keys and John Mayer. Out on the fringe, Bebel Gilberto's "Tanto Tempo," an independent release of her gentle updatings of bossa nova, has become the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" of the jet set's sound systems. It remains a hit more than 2 1/2 years after its release.

Four new recordings, two by musicians and two by deejay outfits, signify a melodic renewal in different ways. Koop, Cousteau and the Supreme Beings of Leisure offer enthusiastic revivals of older styles on their new discs, "Waltz for Koop," "Sirena" and "Divine Operating System," respectively. Meanwhile, Jazzanova takes older styles and updates them on its latest release, "In Between."

Koop is the Swedish duo Magnus Zingmark and Oscar Simonsson, who met in Stockholm and bonded over a love of classic jazz. They began working together in 1995, and "Waltz for Koop" blew onto the scene like the first breeze of spring, recalling the fluid sound of Ramsey Lewis's 1965 hit, "The In Crowd." To create a diverse mix, the duo worked with four separate vocalists on the recording: Newcomers Cecilia Stalin and Yukimi Nagano have sparkling voices that send lyrics gleefully soaring over walking acoustic bass lines; veterans Terry Callier and Earl Zinger provide the slower, more reflective tunes. Koop's music may prove unique to those unfamiliar with their pivotal influences, but to those who are, the music is a little too tethered to its inspirations. It's a pleasant listen but not a lasting statement.

Cousteau joins a long line of British-based musical revivalists, but its focus makes it unusual. The group's debonair music captures the brooding sentiments of classic soul with a distinctly British flavor, more Bryan Ferry than Sam Cooke. Cousteau was formed in London four years ago by Davey Ray Moor and guitarist Robin Brown, who had been writing soundtrack music together. "Sirena," their second recording, offers an alluring twilight sound. Lead vocalist Liam McKahey's breathy, deep tenor invests the lyrics with appropriate quantities of melancholy. And the band actually sounds like a band, rather than a loose aggregation of musicians. It's hard to argue that there's anything remotely "new" about Cousteau, but that doesn't diminish the quality of this recording.

The Supreme Beings of Leisure take their 007 seriously. Their second recording evokes the Swinging London of "Goldfinger"-era Bond. Singer Geri Soriano-Lightwood brings a saucy passion to a series of up-tempo songs that maintain a contemporary bass line at no expense to their '60s verve. The exuberant music on "Divine Operating System" contrasts with the somewhat more subdued sound of the group's self-titled debut recording. In the interim, the Los Angeles-based band (which is scheduled to appear at the 9:30 club on Nov. 11) pared down from a quartet to two principals and narrowed its focus. The songwriting is quite strong on "DOS," but the opaque veneer of the production doesn't wear well. It's solid party music, though; no "Die Another Day" bash should be without it.

Jazzanova's latest recording, "In Between," took four years to produce, but this splendid effort was worth the wait. The group, a collective of deejays based in Berlin, first emerged in 1997 and issued its debut, "Caravelle," the following year. The recording was a knockout mix of early '70s jazz fusion with contemporary hip-hop and soul styles. (Only Squarepusher's jazzier recordings and 4hero captured that blend so well.) Two years ago the group issued a two-CD set of remixes, and finally in late summer came "In Between," a recording that picks up where "Caravelle" left off. Admirably meticulous and ambitious, the album starts with a sample of "Something's Missing" (1967) by the Five Stairsteps. The woozy vocals of the sample slowly give way to a slinky mid-tempo groove highlighted by a deep, warm bass line and a vibraphone solo. The sample remains prominent, but only as a textural device, not a substitute for the song's own structural elements; you could whistle its melody.

Jazzanova has created 17 similarly multilayered songs: Some introduce the herky-jerky aspects of drum-and-bass into classic soul, some build atmospheric backing for poets and singers, and some blend samples as a subordinate aspect of the music. There are a few clunkers, but most of the recording is a stellar example of what can happen when songcraft remains a priority for those working with the latest technology.

(To hear free Sound Bites from these albums, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8181 for Supreme Beings of Leisure, 8182 for Koop, 8183 for Jazzanova and 8184 for Cousteau.)