Album Review: Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”

It had been nearly six years since the French House duo, Daft Punk, released their underwhelming rock-infused LP, Human After All. It had been over a decade since the release of their Magnum Opus, Discovery, which featured house classics such as “One More Time” and the Kanye sampled track “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

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According to urban legend, Daft Punk was the single greatest live act to grace live audiences in the 21st century. I’ve watched videos of their near-mythical 2007 Coachella performance countless times, hopelessly dreaming of someday seeing the spectacle live.

Consequently, Daft Punk had reached an untouchable legend status. Despite their reputation, new music from them didn’t excite me. Because if we’re being honest, Human After All sucked.

Also, it seemed that “EDM” had been played out and driven to the ground by the likes of Skrillex and friends.

Conversely, what I couldn’t foresee was Daft Punk’s grand ambition and deviation from the their old house dance brand.

I fondly remember the day of Random Access Memory’s release, as I rushed to Best Buy to grab a copy before embarking on a road trip (I don’t think there is any better way to hear a new album). As the album unfolded over the next hour, I was completely mesmerized by the beauty and texture of each and every track. Not every song was memorable, but the ones that were exceeded any expectation I ever had for a Daft Punk album in 2013.

And as a fan of music, there isn’t a much better feeling than the rush in your chest when you’re completely blown away by a new song.  The feeling is sort of like asking out your crush in the seventh grade and her saying yes.

In particular, the thumping ballad “Instant Crush” is my favorite on the album and remains a staple in my rotation over a year after it’s release. How could it not?tumblr_mxdnmrq0bo1rs4m56o1_250 It was one of the best songs of the entire year. Julian Casablancas has always had a knack for catchy melodies, and he delivers one of his best ever here in a swooning falsetto.  Lyrically, he’s far removed from his drunken early Strokes days, and has morphed into some sort of lovelorn metaphysical poet. Soze Pro Tip: Put this track on with a cute girl.

Another bonafide masterpiece of a song on Random Access Memories is the divinely robotic “Touch”. For three minutes, the song builds with layering like any other on the album, only to arrive at dancing fiesta, before bridging into the most awe-inspiring musical moment of the year, as a choir sings “hold on, if love is the answer you’re home” over a densely orchestrated electronic backdrop.

Now, you’ve probably been waiting for me to mention the hit song “Get Lucky” with Pharrell. Is it a good tune?  Hell yeah.  Do I ever listen to it?  No.  I know I’m in the vast minority here, but I don’t like listening to Pharrell.  Don’t really understand how anyone above the age of 14 likes him.

But it doesn’t matter how you look at it – this song is a fucking home run (Mark McGwire esque) and a true achievement for the group.

In contrast, “Lose Yourself to Dance” was just downright annoying.  I mean the song is a calling to dance and I have never once wanted to dance while hearing that song. So I think it’s safe to say that song blows.

Towards the end, one of the songs I loved upon first listen was “Doin’ it Right”, featuring none other than Animal Collective electro-savant, Panda Bear. I don’t care who you are or what you like, that song is dope. Bonus points if you hear it on a dance floor.

Random Access Memories would totally be 10/10 if they replaced the two (even one was overkill) Pharrell songs with more Julian Casablancas and Panda Bear.

But seriously, as the album showed, Daft Punk’s ability to recruit perfectly placed outside talent is the album’s strength, which ultimately allowed them to musically go places not possible with just the robotic duo.

My expectations were met and exceeded with Random Access Memories, which is solid front to back, with moments of magic sprinkled throughout. Unforgettable melodies, ambitious vision, and an abundance of feel-good groovy tunes make this album an absolute essential of the decade.

RATING: 8.5

Favorite Tracks:

  • Giorgio by Moroder
  • Instant Crush
  • Touch
  • Doin’ It Right
  • Contact

Skippable:

  • Give Life Back to Music
  • Lose Yourself to Dance
  • Fragments in Time

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