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Monday, May 27, 2013

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - ALBUM REVIEW

Genres: Disco / 70's Synth / Soft Rock / Electric / Dance, Funk

Top Tracks: Give Live Back to Music, The Game of Love, Giorgio By Moroder, Instant Crush, Lose Yourself to Dance, Touch, Get Lucky, Contact

Daft Punk's highly anticipated return LP has been the talk of the music world for the last few months, or at least since the French Electric Duo dropped the single "Get Lucky" back in April. Nonetheless, the warmth, groove and new array of sounds on this single made Daft Punk's fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, the most anticipated musical project of the year 2013 so far.

Long-time fans of Daft Punk's older albums like Homework or Discovery may disappointed to find that the Daft Punk sound which could be heard on mega hits like Around the World, One More Time, Aerodynamic, or Harder Better Faster Stronger, is essentially non-existent on Random Access Memories. Instead, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homen-Christo turn to live instrumentation in order to obtain a fresher, more human sound on this album. They do this with the help of many very reputable collaborators including guitar legend Nile Rodgers, famous producer Giorgio Moroder, Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, Panda Bear from animal collective, and of course Pharrell Williams.

The Album starts off fittingly with the very funky intro song "Give Life Back to Music". The message in this song is clearly the idea that Daft Punk had with this album all along and that was to add soul and purpose to their music by adding live instrumentation and vocals instead of samples and synthesizers. The song is VERY funky and guitar licks from Nile Rodgers are very memorable. The album then takes a slower turn with the song "The Game of Love". I talked to a lot of my friends and various other people about this album and the common consensus amongst them was that this was the worst track on the album. I feel that this is completely wrong. The song is so much more mellow than anything you would expect from Daft Punk which may be why people didn't particularly enjoy it but if anything, that made me like it even more. It might be some sort of opinion on my part, but the vibes here are just very positive and affectionate.

The following track, "Giorgio by Moroder" is my favorite on the album. It begins with the voiceovers of legendary songwriter and producer Giovianni Giorgio mainly talking about his dreams in music and how he set out accomplishing his goals in the industry. This is then followed by an absolutely insane little jam session with a looping synth, ripping bass, and of course those drums. The drums are absolutely amazing here. The fills are very busy but very groovy and they never end. The song builds up to the highest point possible and drops straight back down to the track "Within". "Within" starts off with piano playing a very chill melody followed by the vocoder lead.

This track is blasphemy to the ears of hardcore Daft Punk fans who bought Random Access Memories with hopes of hearing yet another 74 minute club banger. I'm sorry to break it to all of you, but that won't happen anytime soon. Daft Punk seem to be COMPLETELY abandoning that style of music for the time being. They are artists, and when artists become complacent, they never progress and their work becomes boring. That was the sense I got from Daft Punk after hearing their 3rd album Human After All which seemed a little more repetitive and less original than Discovery or Homework.

The star-studded cast of collaborators on the next few songs really help Daft Punk communicate their new style in a fantastic way while still maintaining their own signature style. For example, Julian Casablancas on "Instant Crush" delivers some really great vocals which actually benefit from the autotuning from Daft Punk. I will say that the autotuning comes as close to obnoxious as possible, but as usual, Daft Punk show off their versatility by walking the lines of adversity with a sleek sense of mastery.

"Lose Yourself to Dance" and "Get Lucky" are two of the standouts from the album as well thanks to the vocals from Pharrell and some funky guitar from Nile Rodgers. These songs are really fun, really happy and really innovative. They are essentially disco songs and at first listen it would be almost impossible to differentiate them from the disco music of the late 70's but, it's Daft Punk. They add a new twist to disco with robot voices, clean production and a steady groove. This ability to modernize such a signature and recognized musical genre is a sign of pure genius.

A song like "Touch" also sounds completely different from anything on the album. There are times where I don't even know how to characterize some of the music on this album. It's clear that Daft Punk are ahead of their time. They always have been and still are. If one thing is for certain, it's that these two men were born to make music. Daft Punk are also one of the few artists that I can remember that have such a large amount of crossover value into the pop-market of mainstream music listeners. If anything, that marketability is increased with the catchy and inviting tunes on this record.

For example, take the song "Fragments of Time" with Todd Edwards as the guest vocalist. This song, is not your stereotypical EDM club banger with heavy bass and sporadic synths. It's a bit more complete and a bit more focused in songwriting. It has all the elements of a band except it sounds like Daft Punk, so it has edge.

If I had one complaint about Random Access Memories it would be the song with Panda Bear from Animal Collective, "Doin' it Right". The background vocals are so repetitive and robotic that they get very annoying very fast. So naturally, when it went the entire length of a full song, I wasn't too keen on this track. However, the bad taste in my mouth was blown away by "Contact". This is the closest that Daft Punk comes to replicating their old signature house style. There are still live instrument tracks like drum, bass and guitar but their is an incredibly intense and emphatic build-up along with keyboard and synth rhythms/patterns. It's the epic end to a very epic record.

With this album Daft Punk proves one thing; they are leaders in electronic music. They are the innovators and everyone else can only hope to follow along in their footsteps. Just as they did around 15 years ago, they have furthered the style of electronic music and I can guarantee that this chiller, groovier and funkier style of Electronic Music will not go away very quickly. As fantastic as this album is however, I cannot compare it to Discovery. For me, that record is the perfect electronic record and Daft Punk could not replicate it if they tried. That is unless they made the world's greatest record.  Although Random Access Memories is not completely flawless, it's one of the most complete music projects I have heard in a long time. The dedication, effort, and attention to detail all come forward in the end in what is a fantastic sounding album from the current kings of the modern music world.

FINAL SCORE: 9.5 / 10 Excellent Album.