Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories Part 1, The First Journey

Today we’ll talk about who I am, why am doing this, and far more importantly, what I’ve gathered from Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories.

Since this is my first post on this blog, I suppose I should say a few things about myself before we get into the meat of it. Don’t worry, I’ll try to stay brief. My name is Zachary Sherman, but Zac works just fine. I’m a college student going for an accounting major and I spend most of my time doing dumb nerdy stuff like schoolwork, video games, and Dungeons & Dragons. So what makes me qualified to talk about music then? Well, nothing, except that I, like most people from what I understand, love listening to and exploring new kinds of music. I enjoy this so much that I’ve started a bit of a game with a few friends of mine in which we rotate out albums that we like for the others to listen to, like a book club but less nerdy…arguably.

With that out of the way, the first album I’ll be writing about, not the first one suggested to me, seeing as my actual ulterior motive in starting this blog is for a class assignment, is Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. And now that I’ve bored you with the details and semantics, let’s get in to what actually matters.

I will start by saying my general music taste lies in rock music, both new and old. So when this album opens on some 80s-esque guitar noodling on “Give Life Back to Music” I’m already excited. I’d have heard of Daft Punk previously but always avoided really giving them a proper listen up to this point for various reasons, one of which I’ll bring up shortly. “Give Life Back To Music” follows up it’s big guitar opening with more of a jazzy feel, something that I must say, I’m quite a fan of. Incorporating jazz into rock has been something I’ve been a fan of since listening to my first Mars Volta record back in 15, and was further expounded upon in my exploration of Pink Floyd and King Crimson (Yeah I know, I did that a bit backwards.) However “Give Life to Music” also introduces quickly something I feared going in: that odd robot singing voice I had been previously made aware that Daft Punk likes to incorporate. My previous exposure to such, we’ll call them vocals for the ease of it, was a bit of EDM artist Haywyre’s work, and I must admit I was not a fan back then. Daft Punk however feels a bit different, where in other music I’ve heard the robotic vocals played substitute to regular vocals, Daft Punk’s implementation seems to be more focused around treating the vocals as another instrument to support the soundscape, oddly comparable to the guttural grows and screams of death metal.

The album’s next track, “The Game of Love,” has a very similar approach as the first track, which I will say with honestly worried me a bit about the variety that this album would have. Thankfully, my fears are quelled almost immediately.

The next track, “Giorgio by Moroder,” opens with, well, Giorgio Moroder talking about his experience getting started as a musician. It took a bit of outside research to learn that this man is considered a major pioneer of EDM music as a whole. After his rather interesting speech about his background, which has music subtlety building behind it throughout, the listener is treated to about two and half minutes of rather skillfully crafted, well, electronic music. After a time, Giorgio returns, wrapping up his speech before a few final comments, and then leaves us for the last four minutes of the song. Oh did I mention, this song is nine minutes long? The songs on this album in general tend to be extensive in length, though with their quality and dynamic structure, I would hardly call this a complaint. Just an observation, really. Regardless, something about this song and all the varying phases it goes through, be it a jazzy piano solo, a smooth bass solo, or a beautiful buildup from a choir of synths, something, perhaps all of it, was what got me hooked in. This is the song where everything started to “click” for me, and I cannot be grateful enough for how early such an experimental, genius track appears in the album.

What follows the prior epic is a slower, piano based “Within” and the dancier “Instant Crush” featuring The Stroke’s Julian Casablancas. One thing that tends to shine on this album are the guest musicians, their inclusions and spins on their tracks giving me Gorillaz vibes. Not to say the backing music on these songs aren’t just as fantastic and important of course. On the topic of guest musicians, the next track, “Lose Yourself to Dance,” is the first of two tracks featuring Pharrell Williams, who fits so well within the instrumentals that Daft Punk creates that it might bring to question why they didn’t get him on even more songs. Considering my only other exposure to Williams outside of Daft Punk is his later 2013 song, “Happy,” perhaps it would have been better if he stayed more focused on collaborating with Daft Punk. But maybe I’m judging a book by its cover at this point. Regardless, it would be some time before a song impacted me as much as “Giorgio by Moroder” did. But oh boy, would it happen again.

But I’m afraid we’ll have to cover that another time. This post has already run over long, I’m afraid. Next time we’ll pick up with Random Access Memories‘s longest track, “Touch,” and finish out the album with a final opinion. Thanks for reading!

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