Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Albums of the Year 2013 #2 - Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Since their 2005 album Human After All something strange happened with both the media and public perception of Daft Punk. Despite the record being the French duo’s least successful record commercially and critically their status over the next eight years seemed to become the stuff of living electronic music legends. Maybe it was Kanye West sampling their track Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger in 2007 that did it? Or their Musique Vol 1 compilation from 2006 that reminded people how many great tracks they had created? Maybe it was the rise in mainstream popularity of electronic dance music in America that brought their music to a wider audience? Maybe it was simply their lack of further studio releases (orchestral Tron soundtrack excepted) that increased their robot-suited mythical status? 

So when the hype for their new album Random Access Memories became a major pop culture event this Spring, that status seemed to jump to a new level. This was event marketing at its best, the band seemingly having to do very little, letting the internet do the work instead. (Something that Beyoncé's team seem to have continued in the last few days). For example in April Daft Punk made an appearance at Coachella Festival, not to play live, but by way of a premiere of a promo video for their new single Get Lucky shown on screens at the festival. The result? Fans filmed the video and put it almost immediately on You Tube creating their own mini viral video sensation. By the time Random Access Memories was finally released our twitter timeline was full of people tweeting just one thing: I am listening to the new Daft Punk album. But then, many of them then began to express disappointment. Because Random Access Memories, from a duo known as being electronic pioneers is not an electronically pioneering album. It’s something different.

But our twitter timeline is an odd one, full of music bloggers, press and online types who are often keen to express an opinion first. They don't necessarily have the same window as the majority. So it would seem here, because Random Access Memories has become Daft Punk’s biggest commercial success by a country mile. It’s been number 1 virtually worldwide and Get Lucky has been undeniably one of the biggest tunes of summer 2013. It’s also one of our favourite records of the year.


For these reasons:

It’s a record that is still unmistakably Daft Punk, but yet is very different in its sonic palette from previous records – in fact it pretty much ditches their core staple of house music completely. It’s an ambitious baroque prog disco record that shows that the robots have souls. It’s warm and organic sounding. You can groove to it but it’s a fantastic home listening experience as well. It mines genres and concepts that have been seen as uncool for years and makes them sound relevant again. It has great songs. It’s a concept record, but the concept is accessible to all (quite simply it’s a tribute to music and dancing). It has key tracks that form the backbone of the record (Giorgio by Moroder, Touch and Get Lucky) and give the long-player a sense of importance – of being more than just an album. It pays homage to their roots but never feels or sounds like mere imitation. It has an incredibly diverse collection of collaborators (Nile Rodgers, Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas, Paul Williams and Pharrell for example) each of which seems perfectly chosen for their particular track(s). It gets better with every listen.

At the end of 2013, Random Access Memories sits with Breaking More Waves as a sweetly infectious album that justifies all the attention; believe the hype and lose yourself to dance.

Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance (Video)

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