I originally came across Daft Punk’s music through the Spike Jonze directed video for “Da Funk” in 1998 (for their debut Homework) and have yet to fully appreciate any of their subsequent releases until now. Random Access Memories has the immediacy of a timeless classic. If you didn’t know this record was released in May, it’d be a challenge to pinpoint from decade it was birthed in. Overall, the album is an uneven and epic collection of pristinely produced tracks, featuring a diverse list of collaborations. Highlights include the auto-tuned Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) on “Instant Crush.” The track wouldn’t sound out of place if it appeared on 2013’s Comedown Machine or Casablancas’ Phrazes for the Young. Animal Collective’s Panda Bear is featured on “Doin’ It Right.” The track doesn’t sound as effortless as the Casablancas contribution, but it’s much more fun. The standard Daft Punk robot vocoder is on repeat here for much of the song, and Panda Bear offers his reverbed vocal harmonies. The combination is off-putting on first listen, but my volume knob didn’t stay stagnant for very long.
The real treat on Random Access Memories are the two tracks featuring Pharrell Williams. Never being a huge fan of Williams, his contributions are reminiscent of early Michael Jackson (maybe Off the Wall). Disagree? Take a listen here. There is something innately appealing and magical about this sound, and Daft Punk have harnessed it. It’s hard to ignore the obvious influences and homage being paid at every corner of the record. With that said, is “Get Lucky” the best song of 2013? Probably. The second half of Random Access Memories is incredibly strong and features the near-perfect closing track “Contact.” It’s not so much an easily digestible song as it is the soundtrack for a space launch to Mars. If you’re not left breathless on first listen, you may want to check your heartbeat. While Random Access Memories is far from perfect and may not be the best of the year, no album in 2013 will be this much fun.