I woke up to the best news I could ever wake up to, besides of course Seth Troxler proposing to me, Daft Punk’s album had been leaked. But this meant I also woke up to a lot of disappointed statuses, tweets, carvings of hatred on limbs, you know that kind of crap. Personally ‘disappointment’ isn’t a word I would use when describing Random Access Memories. I am grateful the robots who spurred my love for electronic music into overdrive have returned into my vocoder-scarce life.
Opening tracks are vital to setting the mood for the rest of the album. I’m happy to go on the record as saying Give Life Back To Music is a little cheesier than I would have liked it to be but it is unequivocally joyful and a great start. The guitars, build up and vibe all scream Phoenix which is interesting considering their close ties. The Game of Love instantly changes the mood and is a sombre breakup song almost like an epilogue to the romantic beginnings of Something About Us (Discovery, 2001). There are a few songs on this record that appear to continue stories or have borrowed sounds from older albums . It is something I quite enjoyed about Random Access Memories and funnily enough the name of the album suggests that this theory may not be in vain.
Giorgio Moroder speaking about his journey into music on Giorgio by Moroder is incredibly inspiring, especially when paired with the textbook Daft Punk drop that follows it. It was enough to give me goosebumps. While Moroder’s spiel propels me into this narrative where I imagine every word he says vividly in my mind, him speaking in the middle of the track didn’t mesh well for me. 9 minutes proves to be plenty of time to play around with spoken word and just as you think you know how the track will play out, the 5 and a half minute mark changes everything completely. The addition of strings and drums is euphoric as is the nostalgic scratching you may remember from Rollin’ n Scratchin’ (Homework, 1997) which flips this track into overdrive. 8 minutes in and everything I felt about Daft Punk has been multiplied by whatever my heart rate is at the time.It’s at this point I realise that Daft’s trist with TRON that led them to their own unchartered territory of scores and producing a soundtrack has left an imprint on their sound. Their ability to well up emotion and their buildups are distinctly cinematic.
Within is a piano heavy ballad not disimilar to The Game of Love but instead of a broken heart, the tale of a broken spirit. I imagine this to be the sequel to Emotion (Human Afterall, 2005) where the robots are only first discovering their ability to feel, whereas this song is the tale of feeling like an outcast who is somewhere between human and machine, unaware of where they fit in this alienating world.
I was skeptical about the addition of Julian Casablancas to the album the very moment I heard he would be. His voice, although one of my favourites is just too raw and would clash hideously with the clean and crisp electronica Daft are known for. The lashings of autotune slapped over his vocals on Instant Crush ease the blow. As much as I hate to say it, this just sounds like a song by The Strokes that would have been made as a result of Casablancas having his first ecstasy experience and looking to Wikipedia for answers on ‘dance music’. Positives? Great song title and a catchy melody.
It’s the departure of producing an exclusively electronic album that I think has thrown fans completely off and spawned this incredulous hatred for the album. I understand that, especially when you go from listening to the vocalist from The Strokes to Pharrell on his first of two collaborations on the album, Lose Yourself To Dance. In saying that, the trademark vocodered voices urging me over and over, “come on, come on, come on, come on!” washes over me warmly and with an overwhelming familiarity. God I love these robots. Touch which features Paul Williams was the most unexpected track for me on the album. The intro feels otherworldly and it is overwhelmingly electronic up until an abrust stop where Williams’ vocals begin. This track reads like a celebration of their departure from an exclusively electronic outlook on production to the embracing of traditional instruments. I feel like that sentiment is reiterated both in the lyrics and the very real strings, piano and horns. I feel like it’s a letter to fans explaining why they have made an album seemingly far from their signature sound and Lose Yourself To Dance is a plea to accept this view (although I’m probably just reading into things).
Just as about my mind is about to spiral out of control at the thought of how artificial everything in the world is and how much we rely on technoogy when we should all just really touch and not poke each other on Facebook Get Lucky starts to play and I feel okay again. I feel happy again. I feel like I want to go out and chat up girls and beat Pharrell at his own game.
Beyond again adopts the truly extravagant cinematic sounds that run through the entirety of the album which smoothly transitions into a classic Daft sound for the rest of the track. Motherboard is not a track I expected from Thomas and Guy Man. It sounds like nothing they’ve ever produced before nor does it have anything distinctly Daft about it. But holy *insert your God or lack of one here* it is a beautiful piece of music.
This album is beautifully put together. From start to finish it weaves in and out, throwing your emotions about, leaving you time to reflect, time to dance and time to feel. Fragments of Time offers the listener time to dance for whatever joy you’re experiencing. It’s a slice of 80s with a Daft Punk twist. As soon as Doin’ It Right begins shivers go down my spine. I wouldn’t call it an out of body experience but I would call it a large amount of instant happiness my body isn’t yet capable of dealing with. Panda Bear’s vocals provide a complimentary juxtaposition to the vocoders which I couldn’t take my ears off. I am entranced and only when they stop I realise that Panda Bear was actually singing words. “If you lose your way tonight that’s how you know the magic’s right” is what he was saying and funnily enough I did lose my way and all in 4 minutes.
At the realisation that I have arrived at the very last track in the album I am simultaneously sad and excited. Sad that this is the last fresh Daft Punk I will have to listen to for years (or ever?) and excited knowing I have experienced something special. Contact is Daft Punk epitomised. For all the critics out there who would like to argue otherwise, save your breath for it would be wasted on me. It is an aural celebration of their past albums, a celebration of Steam Machine, Robot Rock, the pyramid, Alive. It is a celebration that wells up a sense of urgency and stomach turning nervousness in me. I am excited and I have no idea what for. I am dizzy and I don’t know why. As the song erupts into what I can only describe as whirring and uplifting ecstacy, I feel myself overwhelmed with emotion.
Daft Punk have been so important in my life. I don’t know how to explain it and I don’t know how they’ve made such a great impact on me but all I have to say is thank you. Thank you for releasing this album and thank you for bringing me happiness through your beautiful music.
There is no comparison. This is Daft Punk.