Album ReviewsHot

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

on May 20, 2013, 12:03am

Random Access Memories has been echoing in the metallic domes of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo for half a decade. The sheer number of collaborations on RAM, including noted movie composers Paul Williams and Giorgio Moroder, finds Daft Punk building upon their new-flesh narrative, adding to their storied, cinematic mythos of the diminishing boundary between computers and people. What sort of film is this? Bangalter has shared that the group is “[D]rawing a parallel between the brain and the hard drive – the random way that memories are stored.” This tale of robots yearning to live like men is a motif soldered throughout the group’s multimedia career. But with Random Access Memories, the robots have found their souls. All it took was razing the digital foundations that brought the group to fame in the first place.

Within seconds, the record stands out as a more homogenized and sleek listening experience than its predecessor, 2005′s scattershot Human After All. Yet it’s also marked by a playful whimsy that falls short of measuring up to the variety that pulsed through 2001′s Discovery, or the groundbreaking dance exploration found within their fabled 1997 debut, Homework. Instead, Daft Punk cuts ties with itself on RAM by exploring the past through some of the best and boldest collaborative efforts in recent memory.

It’s a rolodex of celebrated artists, both contemporary and preceding, who have inspired Bangalter and Homem-Christo to make music that revisits ’70s discotheques and ’80s funkadelic boat parties. Opener “Give Life Back to Music” features a grinning Nile Rogers and Paul Jackson Jr. throwing down a jazzy fusion of guitar licks over an upbeat, funky processional that could serve as an album summary or even a warning: “Abandon hope of an EDM record all ye who enter here.”

“Giorgio by Moroder” is framed around iconic Italian producer, songwriter, and composer Giorgio Moroder, who shares an autobiographical monologue that starts in the ’60s and works its way to today. Granted, it’s an honorable soliloquy from a Dance Music Hall of Fame inductee, but the spartanism of a spoken word segment – especially one that sounds like Werner Herzog waxing poetic over the Drive soundtrack — three tracks deep into the album is a roadblock and diminished return upon subsequent replays that could be better positioned at the very start or end of the record. It doesn’t help that it’s followed by the album’s weakest moment: the bloated dirge of a piano ballad, “Within”.

It’s not until Julian Casablancas’ inclusion on “Instant Crush” that the album centers back on course. The Strokes frontman previously demonstrated an interest in dance music with his 2009 solo effort, Phrazes for the Young, and judging from this track, one can only hope he lingers around the genre. Casablancas fires off in rapid succession “Now I thought about what I want to say / But I never really know where to go / So I chained myself to a friend / Cause I don’t know what else to do.” The most fascinating thing about the track is how it stands apart from the more traditional vocoding techniques of today. Here, Casablancas manages to come across as an artificial lifeform grasping toward human sentiments, rather than the other way around. It’s a confirmation of his own talents, as well as Daft Punk’s disciplined production and attention to detail.

“Doin’ It Right” is another dreamy partnership that plants Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, in the driver’s seat. While most of RAM is an amalgamation of collaborative styles, like two white-hot stars sharing energy across each other’s distinct orbits, the gravity of Lennox’s hymnal, Brian Wilson-inspired croon hijacks the song and makes “Doin’ It Right” feel more like a Lennox solo output. It’s intriguing to see the French duo relinquish so much control in the interest of venturing even further out past the buoys of a comfort zone. The fact that Animal Collective and Daft Punk would one day cross paths is also a remarkable curiosity for anyone who paid attention during the early days of MP3 swaps and file-sharing.

But the standout collaborator on Random Access Memories is, without a doubt, N.E.R.D. frontman and Neptunes producer Pharrell Williams, whose coltish funkiness and frisky hooks rain gold upon album highlights “Lose Yourself to Dance” and “Get Lucky”. The former is a siren song that beckons bemused listeners off the streets and into New York’s long disposed Club 54. Once inside, “Get Lucky” captivates with its sophisticated instrumentation and Williams’ bad boy confessions: “She’s up all night ‘til the sun/I’m up all night to get some/She’s up all night for good fun/I’m up all night to get lucky.” A radio edit of “Get Lucky” has been spinning for weeks and will continue on rotation as it’s already one of this year’s strongest singles and an early contender for this summer’s anthem.

Random Access Memories proves that Daft Punk remain masters of their domain, who defend their array of superlatives because of, rather than in spite of, unconventional sound choices. The strings, the drum kits, and yes, even the clarinets, were not expected from the electronic duo, but somehow it all works. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey taught that man became who he is by mastering his tools, not by being a slave to them. Perhaps too, robots can only pretend to be human for so long before parting from their synthetic origins and embracing the tangible.

Essential Tracks: “Get Lucky”, “Instant Crush”, “Doin’ It Right”, and “Give Life Back to Music”

Feature artwork by Cap Blackard, Justin Hopkins, Virginia McCarthy, and Matthew Vidalis:

random access memories mono version feat

Purchase this artwork (via Society6): Print || Canvas || iPhone Case || Laptop Skin


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October 18, 2014 at 2:59 am

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Bryan Hume
May 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm

It’s such a fascinating and beautiful album. I love everything about it. Anybody catch the Pitchfork Cover Story as well?

Mark Anthony DiSessa
May 22, 2013 at 12:10 am

I just thought it would be unique..its not…if your still looking for unique..listen to the “Cobra Juicy” album by Black MOth SUper Rainbow they released just recently on kickstarter….. so good

Sara L. Rose
May 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Really wanted to like this, but it’s a bloated mess. Daft Punk is a great live act and that’s about it.

May 21, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Sounds like John Tesh or Yanny a bit to me.

Corey Bell
May 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I feckin LOVE this album…Though I definitely think “Touch” is the weakest/most bizarre track on the album and somehow just isn’t cohesive with the rest of the piece. That having been said, even Daft Punk’s worst songs are better than a lot of other songs…though “Touch” almost seems like a deleted song from Starlight Express.

June 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm

Touch is un- listenable

May 21, 2013 at 11:24 am

I’m a huge Daft Punk fan, but I dont even think that Discovery is that good, or any other album they ever made/produced. It’s only some of the songs that are good and by ”good” I mean that I’m having an eargasm every time I hear ”One More Time” or ”Human After All”. I get the sense that those who doesn’t like Daft Punk say that RAM is basically not worth listening to, and Daft fans say that the other albums where better and that Daft Punk has changed, which is true, but DAFT PUNK HAS NEVER RELEASED A GOOD ALBUM. At least not entirely.

Anyway, they are still my favorite band/robots or what ever they try to be.

Sara L. Rose
May 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Great post. DP albums suck. But they’re great live. Why, I don’t know.

May 22, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I know, you’re totally right! Alive is sooooooo good!

Michael Larson
May 28, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I agree with you Gorillaz dude. Daft Punk has never made a good album. Still, I expected at least some good songs on this one, perhaps more than before after all the time and hype… and I’m seriously not feeling this new stuff.

May 21, 2013 at 5:23 am

the endless amount of times “lose yourself to dance” is said ruins the track for me – I’ll hold out for a solid remix

Este vato
May 20, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Really? the music media giving it all to daft punk? revival is now the trend again¿ im fine with that, just, can`t stop think theres something wrong, the album is not good, few really cool moments, a lot of vocoder (so we can`t forget its daft punk album), disco, disco and so many collaborators. It`s organic,robots with soul as you said, but, is not good, we can`t take the few interesting things that support the album and maximize to force you to belive that you`re hearing the ultimate dance experience, no no no, please be smarther, in a couple of months RAM will sound so empty, because its an empty album, despite all the hand job (haha) with real instruments and stuff, sounds so plastic, incipid, boring. Is RAM a better album than the last from ¡¡¡ or hercules and love afair, or the so many disco-influenced acts all over the world? NO of course not, just a couple of guys with robot helmets to make it interesting, a lot of hype, a really cool marketing campaing, the marketing is what makes you all concess that this is a great album…..

May 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm

like Billy said I’m stunned that you able to profit $9454 in a few weeks on the network.

May 20, 2013 at 9:41 pm

….— (Home more information)

Michael Larson
May 20, 2013 at 11:35 am

It sounds like I’ll like some of it a lot, and other tracks not so much, making it much like other Daft Punk albums… but we’ll see how it grows on me. I’m immediately thinking back to some of the early Air EPs and those soft-rock/slow-jams soundscapes. This isn’t the first time a French electronic duo have taken us back to that era. We’re getting some different looks and interpretations here. There’s a lot of over-hype on about this, but I don’t mind that. I was hyping Daft Punk myself back in 1997.

Michael Larson
May 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm

The album has not been a grower, but more like dying on the vine. too bad. I was hoping it would be the soundtrack to my summer.

May 20, 2013 at 9:45 am

Random Access Memories is an anti-anachronism — a record so indebted to and
reverent of the past, that even its existence today feels like an aberration.

In a genre defined by cut, copy, and paste aesthetics, this is Daft Punk’s hand written love letter to dance music, gorgeously penned in a sprawling sonic cursive.

Corey Bell
May 21, 2013 at 2:13 pm

here here. well said.

May 20, 2013 at 3:08 am

The most peculiar thing about this album is the complete lack of consensus about the strongest and weakest tracks. Pitchfork’s review singles out ‘Lose yourself to dance’ as the weakest track on the album whereas it’s a standout moment for me (and for the reviewer too). ‘Contact’ was my least favourite but again has been singled out as a highlight by many.

On a semi-related note, for those curious about Bangalter’s disco heritage, an hour long mix of funk, disco and Afro produced by his father, Daniel Vangarde, can be found here.

Michael Larson
May 28, 2013 at 8:15 pm

I don’t get “Contact”, either, Dada Head person.

Thanks for the link.

May 20, 2013 at 2:58 am

Its sooo boring though.

Nick LeTellier
May 20, 2013 at 12:49 am

Just an FYI, Tron: Legacy was released in 2010 not 2008.

Alex Young
May 20, 2013 at 12:53 am

Fixed, thank you.

Danny P.
May 20, 2013 at 1:17 am

The band began composing Tron in 2008 but yes, could have phrased that better.

May 20, 2013 at 12:44 am

I actually think ‘The Game of Love’, ‘Within’ and ‘Beyond’ are my favourite tracks. Low-key and hooky. I’m a huge fan of Phrazes for the Young, but I can’t stand ‘Instant Crush’, which really confuses me.

To me, the big setpiece songs are the missed opportunities. With the unlimited resources and talent on hand, surely they could have mixed in a few more supreme money shots. When I hear something like ‘Doin’ it Right’ just go nowhere, I can only imagine what headfucks they could have worked in amongst the smaller numbers.

BTW – the vocoder breakdowns on the Pharrell tracks win the album’s top points, IMO.


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