By Saverio Parisi
Daft Punk, the always shiny, semi-robotic, helmet-clad masked French duo, has graced the world with their first studio album in eight years. Random Access Memories, is the follow up to 2005’s Human After All and like many fans I have been eagerly waiting to see what the stellar team of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter have been up to for the past decade.
These are 5Takeaways from the new Daft Punk album:
1. This is NOT Discovery 2.0 (or Homework 2.0 or [insert favorite album title] 2.0).
Sorry kids, but if you’re looking for the same old Daft Punk that made Kanye West’s “Stronger” a hit, it’s not here. Random Access Memories is a strong departure from the previous DP albums. Sure there are still a lot of catchy hooks, beats, and samples like Discovery and you will find yourself humming or singing, “We’re up all night to get lucky” most of June, but it’s clear that in this stage of their career Daft Punk is going for something a little different…
2. Daft Punk is trying really hard to evolve as a band and is using this album to do it.
In an interview, Thomas Bangalter (Silver helmet) said that [Daft Punk] liked the idea of trying to be pioneers, and with Random Access Memories they are definitely trying to step away from their usual minimal sound that can be remixed and re-released. To do this, the duo has enlisted the help of some of the greatest producers from the likes Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes and N.E.R.D. fame to Nile Rodgers who’s produced/written music for almost anybody you listened to back in middle school. (No worries, we all had HORRIBLE taste back then).
And as if that weren’t enough, Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, Chilly Gonzalez, and Panda Bear of Animal Collective all appear on tracks giving the album a little something for everyone’s widely-varying tastes. The whole album has this idea of harkening back to the days of disco, the era where electronic music began. Bringing everybody back before the WUB WUB WUB of dubstep and the idea that it’s so easy to make EDM (See number 3). For this type of sound the duo looked to Paul Williams who was responsible for many hits of the 70s, including songs by The Carpenters, David Bowie, and Three Dog Night. From the sound to the talent, it’s clear that Daft Punk is trying to shape the definition of Electronic Dance Music.
3. Daft Punk is trying to redefine what EDM is and what it used to be.
By enlisting the help of contemporary as well as older producers Daft Punk are creating their own history of EDM, or at the very least coming up with a historical analysis of it. For many, myself included, Daft Punk was the first foray into electronic music and that has defined them as a group. With this album, and this historical analysis, Daft Punk are trying to show their fans what EDM was, what it is, and what in can be. Take the track, “Moroder by Giorgio”, which features vocals from one of the first EDM and disco artists Giorgio Moroder.
On the track, Moroder discusses his life and how he started making electronic music, back when people put tons of time into one track, recording every loop. Nowadays any 12 year-old with a Macbook can make electronic music. Daft Punk is showing fans that EDM is deceptively simple. Anyone can slap some stuff together in Fruity Loops or Ableton Live, but it takes a real artist to make something stellar out of that arrangement. Daft Punk’s music may seem to be just a random assortment of beeps and scratches, but it is actually a complex arrangement that only they could deliver and went over millions of times in the studio.
4. The tracks featuring solely Daft Punk are some of the best tracks on the album.
Although I lauded over the production and featured artists in the album, Random Access Memories truly shines when Daft Punk are accompanied by no one. These tracks remind me of the songs I first listened to and I found myself bobbing my head and singing along to all of them. “Motherboard” and “Game of Love” bring that repetitive rhythm and timbre so prevalent in prior Daft Punk tracks. You’ll feel like dancing and wish there were more than 5 glorious minutes of music.
5. If you like it when an artist you like matures, this is the album for you.
Someone asked me if I liked the new Vampire Weekend album and I said yes. To which they replied, “Really? Those guys are done and should hang it up”. That person being wrong aside, they made me think about why I liked that album. It was because that band had matured and changed and the music reflected that change. The album was darker and yet another I could listen to all the way through. Even though the subject matter wasn’t what I usually associated with that act it was still good music. It’s the same with Random Access Memories, Daft Punk is older and they released their last album when they were in their early 30s. Now in their late 30s they are showing their fans they are not afraid to try new things and redefine their own history.
Doin’ It Right