Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, is a bit of a departure from their much-loved electronic dance sound. The album has some funk influences and much less electronic flair. Let’s discuss!
The hype machine for this album was incredible – posters in cities everywhere, SNL commercials, and a YouTube channel featuring interviews with collaborating artists. The Daft Punk community on Reddit was all over this album like it was the best thing in music since, well, Daft Punk’s Discovery. Most of these people were foaming at the mouth for the album before it ever came out. [Side note: to the reddiot who said the lyrics were amazing, everyone hates you.] The expectations were impossibly high. Part of the reason this review is so late is that I wanted to distance myself from immediate reactions to Random Access Memories and give the album a little bit of time to germane.
What we got in Random Access Memories was an experiment. Daft Punk said they wanted to create a 70s dance album using mostly analog tools because they felt much of today’s electronic music sounded the same because many artists are using the same programs to create music. Daft Punk had everything they wanted at their disposal to do this: an unlimited budget, every name in the music business clamoring to be a part of it, and a huge fan base. What many people failed to remember is that the two guys behind the robot masks hadn’t released a new album in almost 10 years and most people would agree that it had been about 15 years since Daft Punk gave us a memorable album (Discovery, if you forgot). After 10 years, it is difficult to find a sound that appeals to the masses because other artists propelled music in new and different directions and helped us refine our tastes.
In that 10 year period, my anticipation for a new Daft Punk album had become fevered. I had listened to Discovery about a million times and wanted more from that period in Daft Punk music making, but even better. There was no way Daft Punk could meet my expectations for topping their masterpiece, even if it were close I would still be disappointed if I weren’t blow away.
When I finally heard Random Access Memories, I was let down. My first impression was not a good one. The tracks were somewhat down tempo. The whole album lacked the “one more time” dance sound I expected. After listening to Random Access Memories several more times, it started to grow on me. “Get Lucky,” “Instant Crush,” “Lose Yourself to Dance,” and “Doin’ It Right” have become my album favorites. Unfortunately, I’d prefer to skip over most of the songs not mentioned. Many are very long and about as exciting as an episode of How It’s Made (full disclosure: I love this show. It’s just not exciting).
Beyond the songs themselves, the sound production and mixing of the whole album is masterful. Daft Punk definitely cares about the sound quality of their releases. Both the vinyl pressing and mp3s sound absolutely fantastic on my hi-fi setup (well, higher fidelity than the average Joe anyway).
Verdict: Give it a listen and see if it does it for you. I feel the album is somewhat divisive: you’ll love it or hate it.
I’d love to hear your reaction to the album. What were you expecting? What did you think when you first listened to it?