Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: May 21 2013
When French House duo’s Daft Punk released a new single “Get Lucky” a couple months ago, I was probably in the minority of people who shrugged and went on with their lives. I saw plenty of posts on Facebook and every other social media site about it, and raved about it. I didn’t necessarily care, because I had never listened to them, but I did know of them, to say the least. I’m not into electronic music, but I did know that they composed the score (and released a soundtrack) for the film Tron: Legacy a few years ago. They never captured my interest enough to truly listen to them, but with a lot of people talking about their return, and talking about how excited they were that they were back, my mind started to get curious. Best Buy put a coupon of the duo’s new record Random Access Memories on their Facebook page, so that’s what ultimately made me want to check it out, because I could get it for a nice price. Good music for a low price? You definitely have me interested. Needless to say, of everything I picked up that day at Best Buy, this was the record I was most interested in, because I literally had not heard a single song by them. As someone who’s never really listened to this band, let alone much electronic music in general, I was very curious about this record. I had heard somewhere that the duo wanted to use much more “live” instrumentation, and got a lot of actual musicians to play on the record, so it feels much more organic. The result is genius, frankly. Before I pressed play, I noticed that the record was about an hour and fifteen minutes long, which is almost as long as the new Justin Timberlake record, The 20/20 Experience. I’m usually not one for long records, unless they’re truly remarkable. Well, to say the least, this record is remarkable, and that’s coming from a guy who’s never listened to Daft Punk before. It remains very engaging, fun, yet complex and interesting at the same time. Maybe it’s the fact that more organic instruments make their way onto the record, rather than just being a dance record that’s easily digested by the masses. That’s the thing, though; Daft Punk is not like that, but rather, they actually are very intelligent and very clever with what they do. This is a band that, after 20 years, really knows their craft. Like the new Justin Timberlake record, Daft Punk is also a band that’s been absent for awhile, so seeing the hype around this record seemed to have helped it, rather than hurt it. Some would disagree, of course, but that’s all opinion. In all honesty, the fact that this record has had so much hype surrounding it works to its advantage just because it makes someone like me, who’s never listened to them, a reason to listen to them and to buy this album. Anyway, I am glad that I bought this record, because it’s one of the most surprising records I have purchased since I started getting into music. I went into this without knowing too much about the band, or the record itself, and came out a new found fan. With that being said, however, let’s make some random access memories, and dive into this record, shall we?
The record begins with “Give Life Back to Music,” and for a record like this, that’s a very promising statement to make, and it’s exactly what Daft Punk does, not only through this song, but the whole record. This song is a nice intro, because it’s rather “groovy,” as most of the record is. Vocoders run through this song, but they don’t come across as being annoying or anything. They help to add a futuristic sound to the record, because it does have a rather retro sound, with a lot of the organic instrumentation on the record. If there’s one complaint that I have right off the bat with this record, it’s its length. The record clocks in at about 74 minutes, which can be rather lengthy. There are some tracks, like the opening, that know when to stop, and don’t drag on longer than they need to be, but others later on, well, they keep going, and going, and going. They’re like the Energizer Bunny of music, and it’s not a good thing. There are a lot of highlights, and really awesome tracks, however. The first one is third track “Giorgio By Morodor,” which is a nine-minute track that features producer Giorgio Morodor providing a commentary, so to speak, on his experiences in the electronic music genre. It’s really interesting to hear what he has to say, and while I may not be familiar with him whatsoever, there’s a great beat and instrumental that follows about halfway into the song. It has a rather jazzy vibe to it, and Morodor does talk throughout the song, but lets an instrumental do its thing as well. This song is one of the longer tracks, but it doesn’t feel overbearing as other tracks on the record, which I will get to later on. However, one exception is next track “Within;” this song is the shortest song on the record at about 4 minutes, but it also suffers from being the most forgettable. It’s quick, drab, boring, and it just exists, basically. It’s a track that really doesn’t do anything.
Thankfully, a redemption comes in the form of “Lose Yourself to Dance.” This song features producer, and rapper Pharrell Williams on vocals, to which he does a good job. He appears later on one more track as well, but this is his first song that he’s on, and it’s honestly one of my favorites. While some of the record has been rather groovy, and more “organic,” this one stays upbeat, fun, and it’s all about dancing, and losing yourself to the rhythm. Pharrell’s falsetto sounds really cool, and actually works well with the music itself. Following that, seventh track “Touch” is the other really long song on the record, coming in at 8 minutes. Unlike “Giorgio By Moroder,” this song is one that drags on a bit. It begins rather slowly, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. This is a boring song, honestly. It reminds me of “Within,” because it just stays flat and boring. Another redemption comes in the form of “Get Lucky,” which is the first single I was talking about in the beginning of the review. This track is great, and also features Pharrell on lead vocals. The song is rather repetitive, but it’s one of the more straightforward “dance” songs on the record. Its meant to be repetitive, and energetic. That’s exactly what it is. This is easily one of the best songs on the record, honestly.
As for the rest of the record, ninth track “Beyond” starts off with a very theatrical introduction, and it actually sounds really awesome. It morphs into a soft-rock/pop track, and vocoders dominate the song, but it doesn’t take away from anything. At this point, there are only about four songs left, and one of them that really sticks out to me is twelfth track “Doin’ It Right.” This song is a rather catchy dance-pop track that can really get stuck in your head, and that’s why it’s so memorable to me. The one thing that I absolutely adore about this record is its diversity and variety. There’s a lot of it on here – soft rock, pop, dance-pop, prog-pop, classical, jazz, disco, etc, etc. It seems they wanted to take a piece from a lot of different genres and blend them together to make something truly remarkable. They definitely succeeded, and there’s a reason why this record is the second highest selling record of the year.
solid review. paragraphs are a little lengthy and you repeat yourself a bit, but overall pretty informative.
we totally disagree about "Within" though. one of my favorite songs on the record.
Thanks, man. I do tend to repeat myself a lot in reviews, mainly if I'm just trying to emphasis something, but I don't know -- "Within" was one of those songs that just didn't really do anything for me. I've listened to the record a lot, and I don't get too pumped when it comes on.