For an electronic duo that’s as mysterious and eccentric as Daft Punk, the material they put out is surprisingly down-to-earth, invoking the sounds of our musical past through a robotic lens. Obviously, this approach has paid off for them ever since their debut hit the market and attracted rave reviews. Most people cite Homework as their big artistic triumph while others have regarded Discovery as a commercial break through—for what it’s worth, Discovery is insanely good; all killer and no filler.
Of course, Daft Punk was destined to create at least one misfire, and in the eyes of a lot of people, Human After All was that kind of album. There were some impressive hooks throughout, but the length and repetitive nature of the songs was oddly unsatisfying. Fortunately, this did not diminish Daft Punk’s standing with their listeners.
Random Access Memories comes nearly 3 years after their soundtrack work for Tron Legacy and eight years after HAA. Daft Punk didn’t necessarily need to crank out another album; their public persona and electrifying concerts tend to overshadow their studio work anyway. Nonetheless, anticipation has been pretty high.
Random Access Memories is not a radical departure from Discovery, and that is going to thrill a great deal of fans. Nile Rodgers was heavily involved in the production, so the guitar is utilized to an even greater degree than before. The good thing is that it doesn’t upstage the electronic motifs that Daft Punk is known for (Funkadelic-style keyboards, auto-tuned vocals, etc.) However, be advised that this isn’t a predominant dance record; callbacks to One More Time do not crop up anywhere on this album, but Lose Yourself to Dance is one sexy toe-tapper. Random Access Memories essentially takes the funky R&B sound that was embedded throughout Discovery and expounds on it, which has resulted in a more laid-back, slightly melancholic approach. There are wonderful, string-based melodies aplenty, and Touch may very well be one of Daft Punk’s most celebrated tunes. It’s an intimate epic more than anything else.
Guest musicians also feature prominently on this one, but their contributions are mostly on the instrumental front. In addition to Rodgers, Panda Bear and Julian Casablancas (of Strokes fame) lend a hand whenever necessary. Pharrell Williams embodies the vocal element of Random Access Memories, and his voice does a great job of lifting the album out of its lethargic stupor.
Early buzz indicates that Random Access Memories is a welcome return to form, and I couldn’t agree with that assessment more. In a strange way, Random Access Memories might be Daft Punk’s most human effort yet. The joy of collaboration runs through these tracks like a current, even if the music isn’t necessarily designed to send people rocketing towards the ceiling. It may take a while for the album to grow on some people, but upon first listen, you know you’re going to come back to it again and again.
Random Access Memories will be released on May 17.