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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review: Daft Punk- Random Access Memories

The first thing I can say about the highly anticipated, newly leaked album from famed electronic duo Daft Punk is listen to it.  Stream it, download it, find it somewhere and listen to it, in its entirety beginning to end.  You don't need to be a fan of Daft Punk or really even of electronic music, I myself usually don't care much for electronic or dance music, as I tend to prefer real instruments and am not much of a dancer.  But this album is something else, and I mean that in the way that a grandparent would compassionately regard their grandchild doing something different that they may not completely understand.  This album took some huge, metal, robot balls to make and it will doubtlessly disappoint if not outright piss off a lot of fans of the groups previous work.  This is not a dance album.  It is not the album to fuel your summer night parties.  Sure certain tracks could fit, with the single "Get Lucky" being one of them, but that is one of the few truly upbeat, dancy tracks on the album.  This is not to say the rest of the album won't get you moving, but each track is so experimental that if you were to play it in its entirety, most of the time your drunk, dance loving friends will be giving you weird, sidelong glances.
       The easiest way to describe the sound of this album is to compare it to artists that have come before, because while the combination of sounds featured here are innovative and original, you have heard almost all of them before.  Its like you took Justin Timberlake's new album (which we guiltily take pleasure from) mix it with Michael Jackson and  a heavy dose David Bowie, add some funk and disco guitar and drums that wouldn't be out of place in "Saturday Night Fever", sprinkle in a dash of M83 (especially on the albums final track, "Contact" and then take the vocals from all of those artists and replace them with robots.  Its like they made a disco themed roller coaster in Disney's "Tomorrowland".  Its a crazy album and there are awesome hits and some wild misses.  The album opens with a Journey-esque guitar riff and then subsides into the disco guitars that are prevalent throughout and a simple, disco beat while the trademark Daft Punk robot harmonies urge you to "Give Life Back to Music".  This sets the tone for the album both in that the sounds featured here reappear throughout, and in that the theme "give life back to music" seems to be a testament to the amount of live instruments featured on the album.  Sure there are beats and synths and robot harmonies, but they are fleshed out with funky guitar riffs, sweeping orchestras, reverential pianos, soft robot ballads, and even a dueling interwoven harmony from an oboe and a flute at one point.  There are tracks that feature live singers as well.  These tracks are some of the misses on the album, in my opinion, as they remove the futuristic sounds of Daft Punk, and instead just seem like a pop disco song, not much more advanced or creative then 70's top 40 radio.
           The main exception is the albums creative climax, "Touch". This song is fucking insane.  Its an 8 minutes and change song that begins with some creepy space sounds and a creepier space voice, followed by a melody, that if you told me was a B-side from a Bowie album, I would believe.  The song picks up with a piano riff reminiscent of a bumping Elton John song which gradually becomes a repeated, crescendoing chorus of children.  The space noises come back, the melody swells once again, louder and louder, before cutting out completely and finishing with just the a capella lyrics from the beginning of the song.  Its a crazy song and one that is in a sense the summation of the album itself.  Its ambitious, crazy, bipolar, progressive and retro.  If this album is just a joke Daft Punk is pulling on all of us, or simply meant as the fuel for the countless remixes that will follow, then I will punch them in their robot visors, because I am fascinated by this album and have already spent too much time listening and thinking about it.  Listen to it for yourself, this album begs for multiple opinions, its crazy subjective.  Let us know what you think.  But I liked it a lot, I've listened to it in its entirety three times already, and if this is truly the direction electronic future-pop sounds are moving, I'm curious enough to hop on the ride.

You can find the album currently streaming on Daft Punk's Page on iTunes

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