Modern Classics: Random Access Memories

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As we continue to look back over the past decade or so of musical progression, we’re keeping our ears open to albums that made a big splash, sending ripples of influence into the world. Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” is one of those. Their electrically charged, funky pop masterpiece came out in 2013, just a few years after the duo scored the soundtrack for “Tron: Legacy”, in 2010.

One of the aspects of “Random Access Memories” that made it stand out from previous Daft Punk albums, was the quality of collaboration with other artists. The album is full of them. From the radio hits Pharrell Williams contributed on with “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance”, to the equally driving “Instant Crush” with Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. Other contributors include Panda Bear, Todd Edwards, Nile Rodgers, and Paul Williams.

Random Access Memories

The album opens with “Give Life Back to Music”, which starts off big and bombastic before settling into a funky groove. This track sounds the most like old school Daft Punk to me. You’ve got a solid, repetitive, catchy groove, robot vocals, and impressive instrumentation.

The one thing that stands out though, and this carries throughout the whole album, is the abundant use of a guitar and bass. This isn’t the Daft Punk that only sticks to synths, this is something new. But after their experience of melding orchestral ensembles with their synth sound, maybe it isn’t too surprising.

“Instant Crush”

I have to take a moment to talk about my favorite song on the album. “Instant Crush” is a soulful, melancholic love song that brings together two of my favorite names in music.

Julian Casablancas’ slightly auto tuned vocals fit perfectly within the aesthetic Daft Punk have crafted in “Random Access Memories”, where they might sound out of place on a Strokes record. Additionally, we hear Daft Punk practicing some restraint here. The synths are carefully placed to highlight the chorus, not take over the song.

“Lose Yourself to Dance”

If you were alive in 2013 when “Random Access Memories” released, you no doubt heard this hit on the radio. Like most radio singles, you’re probably sick of it by now, but maybe it’s been long enough that it’s worth revisiting again.

Pharrell Williams’ vocals shine in this track right alongside Daft Punk’s characteristic auto tuned vocals. Unlike “Instant Crush”, this is one track that Daft Punk don’t hold back on. But rather than take over the song, they manage to fuse their space-age electronic energy with Williams’ funky soul in a song that’s simultaneously retro and revolutionary, throwback and ultra-new. It’s no wonder it peaked at number 1 on the Billboard US Hot Dance Club Songs the year it released.

“Get Lucky”

Speaking of Pharrell Williams, the man with the golden touch, let’s get into the second track he contributed on. Like “Lose Yourself to Dance”, “Get Lucky” was composed by Daft Punk, Williams, and Nile Rodgers. This song, however, stands apart by hitting the top ten music charts in over 30 different countries, and sold more than 9 million copies, making it one of the top selling songs of all time.

Nile Rodgers’ funk guitar fits in to this disco track perfectly, and once again, Williams’ vocals are unmatched. And Daft Punk’s vocoder synth break about halfway through the song is just icing on the cake.

“Doin’ It Right”

The last track from “Random Access Memories” that I wanted to look at was Daft Punk’s collaboration with Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, “Doin It Right”. This is the only purely electronic song on the whole album, which is crazy to me, seeing as this is a Daft Punk we’re talking about.

I’m a bit at odds with this track, and haven’t fully formed a positive or negative opinion on it. On the one hand, it’s aesthetic fits snugly between Panda Bear and Daft Punk, and Panda Bear’s vocals are hypnotic and moving as always.

However, my one detractor is that it’s a bit too repetitive, and not dynamic enough for me to call it a favorite or a standout. But it does fit thematically into the album, and while the song itself isn’t the greatest, I think it still deserves an honorable mention.

Track List

  1. “Give Life Back to Music”.
  2. “The Game of Love”.
  3. “Giorgio by Moroder”.
  4. “Within”.
  5. “Instant Crush”.
  6. “Lose Yourself to Dance”.
  7. “Touch”.
  8. “Get Lucky”.
  9. “Beyond”.
  10. “Motherboard”.
  11. “Fragments of Time”.
  12. “Doin’ It Right”.
  13. “Contact”.

 

 

 

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