07 December 2013

random access memories || daft punk || 2013

This album was my personal proof that, with each release of new material, every band deserves another chance. Throughout Daft Punk's lengthy career (yet surprisingly tiny discography - I couldn't believe this was only their fourth studio album), I'd nodded my head to a few songs here and there, but I've always had the same complaint: Most of their tracks feel like 20-second loops that have been stretched into 4-minute songs. I got bored with their music about a third of the way through any of their songs.

To be perfectly honest, back when this album dropped, I had no interest in listening to it, but I was convinced by a friend that it was different - "musical" was the word he used - and fired it up. Halfway through the first song I already understood what he meant. They amassed a few more musicians and brought in some vocal talent, but the best way I can describe the real improvement is that they learned how to write a song.

We're tossed right into the band's signature disco groove with "Give Life Back To Music." It was wise not to include any external vocal talent here, because it sets the tone for the rest of the album without tainting it with the flavor of a voice we won't hear again. It goes without saying that Nile Rodgers guitar playing is both welcome and brilliant.

"The Game Of Love" is somewhere between what I like to call "nightdrive" music and the "quiet storm" R&B music of the early '80s. It's morose, but the sad lyrics are overshadowed by gorgeous, glowing, dripping synths and an unfaltering bass groove.

"Giorgio By Moroder" feels like a gift, and not just one from this band to the public. The fellas of Daft Punk no doubt grew up listening to Moroder's genius productions (e.g. Donna Summer's "I Feel Love", which was at least 15 years ahead of its time), so it's quite touching to hear them give Moroder a platform to tell his life story over the medium of the synths with which he is practically one.

Julian Casablancas was a perfect guest on this album. Thanks to his adorable 2010 release "11th Dimension", we know he's into music that blends synths with other genres. "Instant Crush" actually does come out a fairly straightforward synthpop song, save a short guitar solo in the bridge.

It's unsurprising (if not a little disappointing to Daft Punk's hardcore fans, I'm sure) that "Lose Yourself To Dance" didn't achieve the same hit status as "Get Lucky." It fits somewhere between a dance song and a nod-your-head-while-driving pop song, but not comfortably. The BPM is in too awkward a place for dancing (somewhere between grinding and line dancing), which is probably why its big brother single was the dancefloor dominator all summer, even after it was released.

"Touch" feels like the album paused for an intermission and you're forced to sit through a musical theater number from a bizarre interpretation of Starlight Express set in the wild west. I think the band was trying to break new musical ground by beginning in the cosmos before introducing horns and jangling piano, but it's just not for me.

"Get Lucky" will be remembered as a modern classic. It's retro but not cliché, and uses a chord progression that's familiar, but far from overplayed, especially in dance music. Williams' voice is perfect for this fare. The boys were also smart to throw their signature vocals into the bridge to remind everyone that this is their song!

The highlight of the album for me is "Doin' It Right." It's just kooky enough to be memorable without being offputting, and the hook is pure brilliance; you'll sing it all day after hearing it once.

Thanks for this album, Daft Punk, and I'm sorry for unfairly prejudging and doubting you. This is a truly awesome listening experience for fans of any genre.