Album Review: ‘Random Access Memories’ – Daft Punk

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If Kraftwerk and Chic had ever gotten together and conceived a child, I’m pretty sure it would look and sound like Daft Punk. The influence of Kraftwerk, the undisputed creators of electro, and Chic, the world’s greatest funk/disco band, is all over the new release by French duo, Daft Punk. ‘Random Access Memories‘ is a perfect marriage of disco and electro with a super-sized order of disco sauce on the side.

Daft Punk have never been shy about their affinity for disco and funk, and this new album puts that love on glorious display in a truly shameless, yet tasteful and appealing fashion. From start to finish, ‘Random Access Memories‘ is a non-stop party. It’s THE perfect album for summer!

The real enjoyable moments come in the form of collaborations. This time around the listener is treated to the likes of Giorgio Moroder, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, and Paul Williams. Yes, folks, THAT Paul Williams. As in the diminutive actor who played Little Enos Burdette in Smokey & The Bandit, and also happens to be an Academy Award-winning composer & songwriter. Yeah…… THAT Paul Williams! So you can say that this new Daft Punk album is on the unique side. But unique in a good way. A very good way!

Chic-man & funk God extraordinaire, Nile Rodgers lends his guitar chops to several tunes on the album. That old Chic magic comes roaring back to life with ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’, a wonderful sweat-generating jam featuring Pharrell Williams (no relation to Paul) on lead vocals. It’s a perfect union of old-school disco funk and R&B-infused electro-pop. If this track doesn’t get your toes tappin and your booty shakin, you’re hopeless.The same is also true of the album’s lead-off single, ‘Get Lucky’, which again features the pairing of Nile Rodgers and Pharrell. It’s one of the hottest singles on iTunes right now, and with good reason. It’s the summer’s first official party anthem.

Electronic music legend, Giorgio Moroder, lends his voice to ‘Giorgio by Moroder’. It’s a lovely 9-minute tribute to the music and influence of this legendary disco/dance music producer. It features a fascinating spoken-word narrative by Moroder, himself, describing his early years and how he came to discover the synthesizer. Casual fans may be somewhat taken aback by the nature of the song, but if you give it some time and listen from the perspective of Daft Punk showing the world why they do what they do, and who showed them the way…. in this case, Moroder, it’s exceptionally cool and a real joy to listen to. It just breathes with a vintage analogue spirit!

However, as well as the somewhat quirky collaboration with Moroder goes, the equally lengthy and ambitious Touch, which was co-written by Paul Williams, and also featuring Little Enos’s lead vocals, simply leaves me scratching my head. It just doesn’t seem to fit the mood and feel of the rest of the album. It stands out, and I’m not sure if it’s in a good way or a bad way. Instead of feeling like a Daft Punk song, it feels more like a song from some unknown Broadway musical. Almost like a soliloquy of sorts. The music accompanying the vocal portion is gloriously retro. But it just feels a tad out of place on the album.

Other collaborations on the album with Panda Bear, Todd Edwards, and Julian Casablancas are more in the vein of what we’ve come to expect from Daft Punk; Precise, melodic, and groovy electro-pop songs with the right balance of retro nostalgia, vocoder,  and modern-day chutzpah. Many of the songs are slower in BPM than some may like, but they’re so smooth! They go down easy on the ears, like a mellow cocktail at the end of a rough work day. It’s soothing and relaxing. The album is truly a pleasure to listen to, and like I said earlier, it’s the perfect place to start building your summer 2013 listening experience.

I’m awarding Random Access Memories 4 out of 5 stars. It’s the best dance music album I’ve heard yet this year, and it’s well worth your time to check out. You can buy the album via all major online retailers right now. The Disco is open for business! Get it while it’s hot, folks.

Track Recommendations: ‘Give Life Back To Music’, The Game of Love’, Lose Yourself To Dance’, Get Lucky’, ‘Beyond’, ‘Fragments of Time’, ‘Contact’.

Jimm Kjelgaard – 21 June, 2013

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