Welcome to Musical Appreciation. Normally, electronic music has been looked down upon as a lower form of music not worth praising, but two French men in robot helmets have disproved that notion. Daft Punk are one of those acts who has elevated electronic music from mindless club fodder to a legit artform with their instrumentation and melodies that normally wouldn’t be in most dance music. Because of this, they’ve become one of my favorite music acts of the past 20 years. Today’s Musical Appreciation is their fourth studio album released in 2013 that pretty much deviates from what they’ve done on their previous work. This is the critically acclaimed, award-winning Random Access Memories.
- Give Life Back To Music: The album starts off with a rocking intro that leads into a liquid smooth disco number. With guitar licks provided by Chic’s Nile Rodgers (who contributes to two more songs), a groovy bassline, and robotic vocals from the bots themselves, this record lets you know exactly what to expect from this record, mostly, something summery and groove-heavy.
- The Game Of Love: Next, we have The Game Of Love, a jazzy number with spatial keys, smooth bass, and atmospheric drums. Meanwhile, Daft Punk sing in robotic voices a tale of a broken heart. It’s very akin to 808s & Heartbreak, only without the 808s.
- Giorgio By Moroder: Now we’re on to Giorgio By Moroder, which starts with a monologue from Giorgio Moroder, who speaks about his career as a musician before the song goes into an electronic disco number with a barrage of vintage synthesizers, jazz keys, and orchestral strings, plus, more monologue from Giorgio, some great drum work and a rocking outro. At over 9 minutes, it’s the longest track on the entire album, but every minute is worth listening to.
- Within: Because nearly every album needs at least one slow ballad, we have the next song, Within, which starts with a piano composition from Chilly Gonzalez before going into easy-listening territory with its keys, bass, and drums.Daft Punk, in the meanwhile, sing about their feelings of being lost in a world that they don’t understand. The use of the vocoder is perfect for that type of subject matter since it sounds like a robot who just got the basic understanding of emotion.
- Instant Crush ft Julian Casablancas: Here’s a song that wouldn’t sound out of place in the 80s. Evoking new wave and synthpop built on a frollicking guitar riff and retro synths, Instant Crush embraces the aforementioned decade while Julian Casablancas reminisces on a childhood crush. Definitely a highlight of the album.
- Lose Yourself To Dance ft Pharrell: And now for the first of two Pharrell collaborations on this album, Lose Yourself To Dance. This song is built off of simple but effective disco instrumentation, including Nile Rodgers’ guitar licks, slapping bass, and dirty drums. It’s made even better thanks to a vocal contribution from Pharrell. This is just a nonstop fun midtempo track perfect for parties.
- Touch ft Paul Williams: For the best combination of electronica and disco on-record, we have Touch. This is pretty much a disco song structured like a prog-rock song with unconventional and unpredictable tempo changes and different instrumentation, whether it be a disco section, a series of sci-fi synths that manage to play off one another without sounding messy or cluttered, plus, some amazing use of piano, brass, saxophone, etc. It’s one of the best-produced songs of the entire record. Every element works perfectly and it creates a beautiful sound. It’s definitely worth your time.
- Get Lucky ft Pharrell: And we’ve reached the big single, Get Lucky. What’s there really to say about this? It’s a fantastic modern disco song. More of Nile’s guitar work, funky bass and drums, and keys to create the ultimate summer song with Pharrell making his second appearance wanting to get laid. This is my pick for the Best Song of 2013 for a reason.
- Beyond: We start Beyond with a soaring brass and string orchestral composition straight out of a movie score before transitioning into into a smooth funky number reminiscent of Regulate by Warren G with some subtle acoustic guitars and vocoder vocals. Another great song off of a great album.
- Motherboard: .A futuristic neo-jazz composition that starts off with space keys, flues, acoustic guitars, and tropical percussion that halfway through the track, transitions to some intense sci-fi synths and arpeggios with some dirty drums and percussion. And people said that Daft Punk were too stuck in the past.
- Fragments Of Time ft Todd Edwards: Fragments Of Time is a chill funky tune that fits perfectly with the late 70s/early 80s sound that Daft Punk wanted to recreate with RAM with the use of jazzy keys, retro keys, and rocking drums, plus, that col-sounding use of the talk box on the bridge of the song. This sounds just like a really great Hall & Oates song, especially with Todd Edwards singing about enjoying a visit to the Golden State itself, good ol’ California.
- Doin’ It Right ft Panda Bear: This song stands out the most out of all of the songs on this entire album because instead of instrumentation you would hear from disco, we get more modern electronic production that consists of a vocoder melody, trap drums, and some spacey synths halfway through. This is what Daft Punk would do if they didn’t decided to do disco and they pulled off the trap sound much better than many trap producers. Oh, and there’s also Panda Bear. He was cool.
- Contact: Now for the final song. Contact is a great way to close this album with its epic 80s new-wave/synthpop sound. The atmospheric synths are amazing and I love the drum work of it as well. As the song progresses, it starts building and building until total chaos. It sounds like the closing song to a kick ass rock concert where everyone loses their shit while reaching a climax. By the end of the song, you’re left thinking, “I need a cigarette.”
And that was Random Access Memories, a modern-day classic. It’s a great tribute to music of the late 70s and early 80s and it’s also a great album to listen to in the summer. A lot more live instrumentation went into the production of this album than in previous ones while mixing in elements of electronica, funk, and even prog-rock. As a result, we get a lot of tight melodies and grooves that’s nonexistent in most modern music. All of the featured artists do their thing on the tracks they’re on as they add some extra flavor to the songs. In a time where everyone is obsessed with and/or making disco tracks, Daft Punk were one of the few who had the balls to make an entire disco album in the 21st century and have it be good from beginning to end. Even with its retro sound, the record is modern enough for contemporary audiences to enjoy thanks to the Daft Punk touch (no pun intended). Great record. I would say check it out, but chances are you already did.
So that was Musical Appreciation. Next time, we’ll talk about Ghostbusters.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Get Lucky-Daft Punk ft Pharrell
Knocks Me Off My Feet-Stevie Wonder
Last War-Beres Hammond & Zap-Pow