Random Access Memories might have won Daft Punk their first Album-of-the-Year Grammy, but for fans of the group, the album seemed more like a victory lap than anything else. A demonstration that the French duo can do whatever and work with whomever they want.
Whom they apparently wanted to work with most was Nile Rodgers, the musician who revolutionized 1970s dance music with his band Chic and is at least partially responsible for hits by Diana Ross, David Bowie, and many more.
Rodgers helps kick off the album with a grandiose yet relaxed disco groove in the song "Give Life Back to Music." Daft Punk supply the electronic music through synthesizers and other instruments as well as their trademark robotic vocals. Did I mention that Daft Punk dresses up like robots? Now would be a good time to mention that.
Pharrell Williams is an amazing vocal talent, so it's no surprise that the Virginia native gets to grace the album twice with his smooth as silk, slow-jam voice. Williams serenades us with two sultry tunes "Lose Yourself to Dance" and "Get Lucky," the latter of which continues to be wonderfully infectious even after a year of non-stop radio play. Both songs also benefit from Rodgers' über-cool guitar licks.
Pharrell's songs bookend an emotionally devastating collaboration with another Williams. You may know Paul Williams more for a song he wrote for a Muppet than his own material. The composer of "The Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie bares his heart and soul on "Touch," laying it all on the line as the music swirls from electronic into Dixieland jazz before building into a grand piano ballad. It is one of the most unusual songs on the record, but also my favorite.
Collaborative albums can sometimes seem messy, and Random Access Memories is no exception. It is almost 75 minutes long and sometimes comes off as a tad indulgent. Not everyone is going to love a nine-minute song in which electronic music legend Giorgio Moroder recalls his entire career, but it is such a loving tribute to their hero that I cannot fault them.
I recommend checking out Daft Punk's entire discography, especially the albums Homework and Discovery. The band also composed the soundtrack for the recent Tron film. Some considered the soundtrack to be the best aspect of the entire movie.
If you like to dance, you'll enjoy this album. If you like to learn a lesson about the history of pop music from 1970 and beyond, taught by a pair of French robots, you'll also enjoy this album. It can be so nice to find a middle ground.