Best Albums of 2013: #5
5. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
EDM’s greatest act abandons the established formula and changes the game.
Faces in the Crowd*
Imagine yourself in a musical time machine but, in the 21st century. That is Random Access Memories, Daft Punks newest album. It just gives off this feeling of a placebo effect with its 80s like riffs and base line, with a twist of Daft Punk’s well known electronic based music. In my opinion they literally “Give Life Back To Music”, and set themselves free from all of the other main stream musicians.
It seemed as though Daft Punk’s music exploded in latter half of the 2000’s as well as the overall exposure of the electronic dance music genre and rightfully so. Some might even say that now it’s become over saturated with many EDM inspired artists just leeching off of the genres success to catapult themselves onto the pop charts, but that’s how you know Daft Punk’s impact on modern music is real. So, when the electronic landscape has only broadened, it’s harder for a duo like Daft Punk to really go back to formula. The last time Daft Punk came out with a studio album had been in 2005(Human After All), an eternity for a band of their stature. It even seemed like the french duo had been kind of bored with the established method. Human After All was kind of lacking in comparison to their first two albums. So, instead of releasing another album in 3 years after their last, they took some time off, released a live album in 2007 and did a soundtrack for Tron: Legacy in 2010. The funny thing about their long absence is that in the time of which they were doing other things it seemed like they only got even more popular. That can be accredited to their songs being sampled by artists such as Busta Rhymes, Kanye West and Janet Jackson as well as producing some tracks for Pharrell Williams and appearing in a few commercials. It seemed as though Daft Punk was trying to progress and participate in other endeavors. They knew they had to try some new things in order to survive in the landscape of which had been slowly ripping them off and that’s exactly what they did in 2013 with Random Access Memories.
The album opens with “Give Life Back to Music” and it’s very clear from the jump that this album is going to be different. It features some groovey guitar work by Nile Rodgers and drums by John “J.R.” Robinson. It all just seems so disco. The song’s lyrics are essentially about a life within music and the feelings produced from music. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo deliver vocals through a vocoder, an element of which has been a Daft Punk staple from the very beginning. This disco-ey style is continued with “The Game of Love” with even more robotic, disjointed vocals from De Homem-Christo and Bangalter. The next track “Giorgio by Moroder”, is Daft Punk at their absolute best. The intro of the track features a monologue by famed dance music producer Giorgio Moroder, a man who Daft Punk cites as a huge influence. This song is essentially what Random Access Memories is in a nutshell. The production is fucking unbelievable. It’s like a reflection of where dance music was, where it is, and where it will be. Daft Punk is essentially telling the story of dance through sheer sound and a monologue. No doubt, this is one of the best songs of the year.
“Within” features piano work by Chilly Gonzales and it’s a reflection of how much Daft Punk has changed. Essentially, this track is a robotic piano ballad about disconnect. “Instant Crush” features vocals from the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas and this one completely blindsided me. The recurring themes of memories, disconnect and love are all present on this track. It’s arguably the closest Daft Punk has gone into the realm of rock, featuring guitar work as well as a solo. “Lose Yourself to Dance” features vocals from Pharrell Williams and quite honestly, Pharrell’s appearance on this album is keeping Pharrell’s music as fresh as it is Daft Punk’s. It’s another one of those disco-ey tracks that feels like it’s whole point is to display the sensation that one feels when listening to dance music. It’s some funky disco groovin and it’s hard not to dance to.
“Touch” is a track that is all over the place instrumentally. It spans on various genres and instruments. It goes electronic one minute then orchestral the next, back to electronic, only to return to orchestral with choir backing vocals. It’s almost like a song fit for a musical. Paul Williams delivers vocals focused on disconnect and love. It’s probably the second best track behind “Giorgio by Moroder”. It’s nothing short of brilliant.Wow! Wow! Wow! Even with it being 8 minutes in length, it feels like it should have gone longer. “Get Lucky” is a track that is ridiculously infectious. From Pharrell’s vocals to the funky groove that enters your body and never leaves. The popularity of “Get Lucky” on the radio was no fluke, this song is arguably the best single of the year, tied with Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” and Lorde’s “Royals”. The next track “Beyond” is a track in which Daft Punk seems to go back to their trademark sound towards the second half of the song but still featuring the disco influences that they have been channeling on this album. “Motherboard” is a track that’s probably the least colorful on the album, but it still works. It sounds more like something they would have done on their first three albums. It features some keyboard work as well as layers of effects.
“Fragments of Time” feels very 80’s to me. It’s incredibly smooth and uplifting with Todd Edwards singing about enjoying the ride in front of him as well as the memories. The song features cut up electronic sounds to which they attribute to the songs vocalist Todd Edwards. “Doin’ It Right” is the sole pure electronic dance track on the album. It’s charged by a snare drum and Animal Collective’s Panda Bear delivering vocals on the vocoder. “Contact” is a fitting end to an altogether fantastic album. It features layers upon layers of instrumentation, which include synths, organs, hard hitting drums and heavy, distorted guitar work. It ends with this acid sound that keeps growing and growing as if the duo is taking off to another planet. Quite honestly, after this album who knows where they’re headed next?
In their fourth studio album, the french duo has completely abandoned the sound that they’ve trademarked in exchange for a new type of dance record for them that seems to be a tribute to their influences. They’re using a lot of live instrumentation on Random Access Memories and have really been trying to keep the electronic elements at a minimum. It’s arguably the most surprising record of the year. While there is a good amount of live instrumentation, that doesn’t mean this album lacks in quality. If anything, this album is as good as, if not better than Discovery or Homework. Overall, Daft Punk has found a new life in it’s collaborators, such as Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams and Chilly Gonzales but not only have they found new life, they’ve also found a new way to groove.
Listen to “Giorgio by Moroder” by Daft Punk:
BEST ALBUMS OF 2013