Album Review: Daft Punk, ‘Random Access Memories’

luke kalamar gets lucky …

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There are very few artists with such a devout following as Daft Punk. Ever since their first album Homework dropped in 1997, even the most casual electronic fan got sucked in. It also helped that Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo kept their identities secret behind ornate robot costumes. The mystery became a huge part of their appeal. Despite the fact that you can easily found out what Bangalter and de Homem-Christo look like online, their robot personas have formed a life of their own and the act obviously wouldn’t be the same without them. With the exception of their Alive 2007 album and the Tron: Legacy Soundtrack, the electronic music duo has remained relatively off the radar since 2005. This absence only added to their appeal as more and more fans got into their music during this time (I know I did). They sort of became this mystery group that, over the years, people fell in love with and desperately wanted another studio album after 2005’s Human After All.

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This is why when Random Access Memories was first teased in early 2013, heads almost exploded with excitement. The advertisements started rolling out at a gradual pace and first came to a head on March 2nd when a 15-second television ad aired during Saturday Night Live. It was quick, mysterious, and exactly what you would expect from the band. Then the real big event came during the first night of Coachella Festival 2013. This was when the now infamous third trailer debuted featuring Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, and Nile Rodgers performing “Get Lucky,” the album’s first single. It was shortly followed by the names of the nine total collaborators on the album, including: the aforementioned Williams and Rodgers, and also Giorgio Moroder, Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas, Todd Edwards, Paul Williams, DJ Falcon, and Chilly Gonzalez. The website also started featuring a series of videos called The Collaborators, where each collaborator was interviewed about their experiences recording with Daft Punk. As of this writing, there are eight videos up with Julian Casablancas as the only one missing. Needless to say, the promotion for Random Access Memories was off the charts and was essentially viewed as THE most anticipated album of 2013. So does it live up to the high standard it set for itself?

In many ways, Random Access Memories absolutely delivers. The entire album is catchy and full of danceable tunes that keep you hooked from start to finish. Each collaborator brings their own special element to the songs they’re on which makes each track unique, but still have a sense of similarity. Take “Give Life Back to Music” and “Get Lucky” for example. Both feature legendary guitarist Nile Rodgers who is best known for his work in Chic and the triple platinum single “Le Freak.” This man thrived in the disco era, so it makes sense for the two songs he’s on to have a very distinct rock/disco feel. Then you have “Giorgio by Moroder” which, as the name suggests, features Italian record producer Giorgio Moroder. Moroder is internationally renowned for bringing an electronic and synthpop sound into disco, and his track showcases this beautifully. It’s definitively a piece by Moroder just like how you can clearly see Rodgers’ influences on his two tracks, so the songs are different but still use their similarities to blend perfectly together.

This album still retains a lot of the classic Daft Punk sound that made them so popular to begin with as well, especially on the tracks without the notable collaborators. The final track of the album “Contact” is very heavy on the electronic and house elements and reminds me a lot of their past work. The same goes for “The Game of Love” and “Motherboard,” except those are much slower in comparison. “Beyond” also has a beautiful orchestral score in the beginning which brings me back to Daft Punk’s work on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. It all just combines to form one beautifully crafted album of changing music styles from multiple eras.

However, I can see how this album could have a lot of detractors, especially from long time Daft Punk fans. Despite the similarities with past work, this album is definitely a lot less focused on the house/French house style that Daft Punk has become known for. I have already read stories of a lot of fans who really dislike Random Access Memories because it’s clearly more focused on disco than house. There’s very little like their past hits “Technologic” and “One More Time” on here, so if you’re pulling for one of those you honestly might be out of luck.

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If you’re going to ignore this album because it’s different from previous Daft Punk releases, then I’m going to feel really sorry for you. Differences aside Random Access Memories is an amazing album. There is a lot to love here and many reasons why you should keep coming back for more. I never once expected that Daft Punk was shooting for the moon with the heavy promotion because I knew they could pull it off. Random Access Memories is easily one of the best albums of 2013 and I expect it to be on many Top 10 lists with a few Grammy nominations.

Rating: 9.5/10