Review–Random Access Memories

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Daft Punk has done enough in their career to be called the strangest band alive. I mean, two French guys who dress like robots and sing songs with vague lyrics, mostly accompained to techno beats? Guys who made an entire anime film to go with one album? And to top it all off, you almost never see their real faces? How crazy are these guys?

Whatever kind, it’s a popular one, because it’s pretty much thanks to this duo that electronic dance music–EDM–is so popular right now. Skrillex and his silly hair would not be megastars right now if Daft Punk hadn’t proven long ago that EDM could be made for a mainstream audience.

So, given their rarefied place in EDM history, and their status as geek gods certified with their all-techno score for Tron: Legacy (which is, no joke, the best and most memorable part of that movie, one would expect that the band’s first album in nearly a decade would be more of the same awesome robot music, right?

Well, you’re wrong. Random Access Memories is not a techno record. It’s not an EDM record. It’s…well, that’s the thing. I don’t know what to call it exactly other than some sort of futuristic disco record.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Disco, music of boogie shoes, afros and the Bee Gees? Get that away! Well, SLOW down; disco, like any other genre of music, has its goods and bads, but at its core, is really just a super-cool Euro-spin on R&B and soul music. (For more info, check out these episodes of the radio show Sound Opinions.)

Anyway, this, as I said, is NOT a techno record. It’s a human record, with live instrumentalists and vocalists up the wazoo, with the occasional vocoder interlude. It’s definitely soaked in the ’70s, particularly the whole album-oriented radio aspect of that decade–the idea that, instead of a single, the album itself should be the focus and should be composed as a cohesive whole.

That being said, I did my usual thing and gave you some highlights from the album. Because I am nothing if not a stickler for procedure.

“Instant Crush”–Whether you like or don’t like The Strokes, you can’t deny that frontman Julian Casablancas has a voice that sounds like absolutely no one else’s. So Daft Punk decided to filter his voice through a vocoder so well I couldn’t even tell it was him. Besides that, the song is a wonderful little thing too, a nice mashup of ’80s synth pop and post-punk worthy of The Strokes.

“Doin’ It Right”–Animal Collective is probably the weirdest indie band out there right now, and the work of their co-founder and drummer Panda Bear is just as weird, a sort of Beach Boys on acid. Here, however, his warped sensibilities play off really well with Daft Punk’s, resulting in a dang catchy tune.

“Get Lucky”–OK, you’ve probably heard this song a lot by now, and the radio edit is a TERRIFIC single, but the full six-minute album version is much better. Nile Rodgers’ guitar is even more incredible, and Pharrell is way more hip and swinging (it goes without saying that this is probably the best thing Pharrell has done in, like, probably six years)

“Touch”–In what at least one review has said is the centerpiece of the whole album, the legendary Paul Williams (whose songwriting credits alone have made him a legend; look him up) sings as a lonely android struggling to recall his human past while the music swirls around him. Definitely a song to sit and deeply listen to with eyes closed; haunting stuff.

Well, if all these YouTube embeds suggest nothing else, I LOVE this record, and you will too. Go find it now; you won’t regret it.

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