// Album Recommendation

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

(2013)

"There’s no such thing as competition
To find our way we lose control
Remember love’s our only mission
This is the journey of the soul."

Random Access Memories Album Cover Daft Punk Volt and Volume

French Duo Daft Punk excels at mixing good old-fashioned fun with dead serious musicianship. Their name speaks for itself, and the masks they wear show that they don’t take themselves too seriously. But as much as they incorporate humor and a charming playfulness, the duo’s forte lies in its painstaking attention to detail and the duo’s ability to transform their vast knowledge of music history into a sound that’s very much their own. These are two perfectionists, who don’t leave anything to chance -– “music geeks” in the best sense of the word. With a playing time of 72 minutes, Daft Punk’s fourth proper studio album Random Access Memories contains an enormous amount of brilliantly textured music and creative ideas to dissect and absorb in one listen. Not since 2001’s Discovery has Daft Punk recorded an album this complex, ambitious and accomplished -– sounds, styles, production, arrangements, musicianship, every aspect of this album is executed by musicians, who know their way around a recording studio.

Like Discovery, Random Access Memories honors the lost art of the age-old vinyl LP (“long-player” to the non-initiated), and the thrilling experience of listening to an album from beginning to end -– a cohesive series of carefully sequenced tracks –- as each song slowly but surely stands out and takes its rightful place as a piece in the puzzle. Sure, the listening experience was in part influenced by the fact that you couldn’t just “fast-forward” the record needle (and it was a little too much work getting up and doing it manually), but it had just as much to do with it being a different time back then and people generally having a different mindset. In these fast-moving, superficial times, it’s a concept -– and a privilege -– that many of today’s buyers of CDs and, especially, Mp3s, won’t ever get to experience simply because most don’t have the patience or the inclination to invest the time needed to appreciate less accessible songs. If you belong to this segment, you’re depriving yourself of an abundance of truly excellent and exciting music. Random Access Memories is no less than a work of art that deserves to be listened to in its entirety.

A sense of nostalgia permeates the entire album, whether it be the meticulously recorded analog sound, the production techniques of the late '70’s/early '80s Disco, R&B and Soft Rock, the title Random Access Memories (the operate word being “Memories”), or the enlistment of old pros like singer/songwriter Paul Williams and legendary Disco pioneers Georgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers (of Chic). That this is a retro record is indicated as early as the opening guitar chords to the lively album opener Give Life Back To Music, which replicate the intro to The Supremes’ classic You Keep Me Hanging On, only to make room for Nile Rodgers’ distinct guitar licks, heard on a number of Chic classics (Le Freak, Good Times, I Want Your Love, Dance, Dance, Dance, etc.). Niles Rodgers also works his funky, Chic-esque magic on two other dance-friendly songs, both featuring lead vocals by Pharrell Williams (of N.E.R.D. and production duo The Neptunes): Lose Yourself To Dance starts off as a fairly straight-forward Funk groove, but is soon taken to a whole other level by Daft Punk’s stunning, skillfully interwoven Vocoder-processed vocals and subtle synth sounds. And then there’s the effortlessly melodic first single, the upbeat Get Lucky, a Top 5 hit in various countries ranging from France, Australia, Germany, Sweden and the U.K. to the U.S. These three Niles Rodgers-assisted tracks are the ones that are most likely to get the dance floor going.

Random Access Memories also holds its fair share of mid-tempo grooves. Instant Crush features an infectious chorus ready-made for hit radio, a computer processed lead vocal by The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, and a crunchy guitar solo. Several critics have compared the smooth Fragments Of Time to iconic '70s duo Steely Dan, but the sound and style of the piano playing is Michael McDonald’s (of The Doobie Brothers). In fact, both comparisons make sense, as McDonald also played keyboards on Steely Dan records like Katy Lied (1975) and Aja (1979). The Game Of Love sounds like a tasteful albeit fairly orthodox early ‘80s R&B track, and the robotic Soul of Within, an outright ballad, is the slowest song they’ve ever recorded, perhaps not what most hard-core Daft Punk fans would prefer, but both are worthy additions to the duo’s song catalogue in their own right and contribute to a bigger whole on Random Access Memories.

Even though spontaneity may not be the obvious driving force of Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, at least they don’t shy away from trying to surprise their fans or the critics. Just listen to the 9:05 minutes-long Tour de Force that is Giorgio By Moroder. An homage to groundbreaking Disco super-producer Giorgio Moroder (Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and Love To Love You Baby), Giorgio By Moroder is an entertaining piece of music consisting of two monologues by Moroder and long, swirling passages of edgy synth sounds, jazzy keyboard and scratching. Another unconventional composition is Touch. Inspired by the American 1974 musical film “Phantom of the Paradise” (starring singer/songwriter/actor Paul Williams, who also wrote the musical score), Touch is a strangely fascinating 8:19 minutes-long hybrid of show tune balladry, German Krautrock synth and Donna Summer/Gloria Gaynor-like Disco, with a lead vocal by Paul Williams himself. On paper it may sound like it couldn’t possibly work, but it does –- and to perfection. Credited to his alias Panda Bear, Noah Benjamin Lennox, founding member of Alternative/Indie group Animal Collective, sings lead on the engagingly uplifting Electro-Pop song Doin’ It Right, an obvious choice for a single release.

Citing such legendary records as Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon and Steely Dan’s Aja as an influence, Thomas Bangalter said: "The most important records in music are the ones that take you on a journey for miles and miles.” And that’s exactly what Random Access Memories does. Three tracks toward the end of the album –- Beyond, the instrumental Motherboard, and Contact –- are lush, intricate compositions that repeatedly take unexpected, exhilarating turns, stirring the imagination, and, finally, bring the album to its ecstatic climax. Random Access Memories is an extremely ambitious and accomplished release -– beautifully produced, engineered and arranged. Repeated listens reveal that this album is an undisputable masterpiece, which deserves each and every one of the five Grammy Awards that it won.

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