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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Albums of the Year - #15: Daft Punk - "Random Access Memories"

Rating: 7.4/10

Today, I'm beginning the countdown of my top albums of 2013, starting at number fifteen and working all the way up to my favorite record of the year. The first entry on the list is Daft Punk's highly successful dance-pop monster Random Access Memories. The album had plenty of hype surrounding it pre-release, with the group hinting at the upcoming CD in a commercial during SNL before officially announcing the album to much fanfare.

The most instantly recognizable track off Random Access Memories is lead single "Get Lucky," a summertime smash hit which featured Pharrell Williams on vocals. Built around a funky guitar riff and Pharell's falsetto, the single went triple platinum in the United States and sold over seven million copies worldwide. However, unlike other recent chart-toppers, "Get Lucky" had critics raving, and the so-called "return of disco" was declared perhaps over-optimistically.


The record itself is somewhat of an anomaly in that it is essentially a disco record (with a few modern-day bells and whistles) that succeeded well after the genre's heyday in the 1970's. Post-disco, the vast majority of people forsook the music style, calling it cheesy and repetitive. And for the large part, they were correct in doing so. 

However, Random Access Memories revels in disco's strong points and warmly embraces the chessieness in a way that you can't help but enjoy. Synthesized strings like the ones heard at the beginning of "Beyond" and the simple drum patterns taking up practically half the record just seem to work for Daft Punk.

Still, with all the grandeur and over-the-top composition Daft Punk use, Random Access Memories can at times be underwhelming. "Giorgio by Moroder" stretches out for an arduous nine minutes, and you have to sit through about seven of the nine before the track goes anywhere worthwhile. Songs like "Within" and "Motherboard" feel like filler and could be removed from the tracklist without much issue. 

The record can also be crushed under it's own overly-ambitious weight. Though I mentioned how Daft Punk make 'corny' work to their advantage, at times it's a little too much to look past. The intro to "Give Life Back to Music" verges on ridiculous, and sounds like something The Darkness would write, not Daft Punk. 

Nevertheless, these are minor qualms with an otherwise solid record. "Lose Yourself to Dance" and "Doin' It Right" are two of the grooviest and catchiest songs you'll hear all year, and are downright fun to listen to. The hook to "Doin' It Right" is particularly brilliant, as featured vocalist Panda Bear's hook meshes with the robotic chorus seamlessly. "Contact" is such a wild, prog-rock album closer that you won't even notice it's an instrumental track.

Though a bit too long, and at times overwhelming, Random Access Memories is all in all a pretty great album full of great singles. It may not be a totally cohesive record, and listening to it all the way through will probably make you notice how repetitive and droning it can be, there are some amazing individual songs on there. Daft Punk's first release since 2005's Human After All has been a pretty huge success, and probably was worth the wait.

Key Tracks: "Get Lucky," "Lose Yourself to Dance," "Doin' It Right," "Contact"

1 comment:

  1. Maybe when you finish top 15 best, you could do top 5 worst? that would be fun.

    ReplyDelete