Save for Daft Punk's score for 2010's Tron: Legacy, it's been far too long since the duo has released any new material. With Random Access Memories, it is as though Daft Punk is simultaneously saying "We care, but we don't give a shit." With the first single, "Get Lucky," produced by Nile Rodgers (of Like A Virgin fame) and Pharrell, Daft Punk is going in a direction they've never really gone before: A commercially tongue in cheek one--complete with superhero accessories.
The opening track, "Give Life Back to Music," establishes a vivacious beat to match the sentiment of the song title, with a throwback sound that quickly pays homage to the Giorgio Moroder style. "The Game of Love" has faint traces of "Something About Us" (from 2001's Discovery), with its slow, seductive pace. "Giorgio by Moroder" is perhaps the most unique and innovative track on Random Access Memories, with an intro from Moroder himself explaining his childhood dream of becoming a musician in spite of being from a small Italian town (Urtijëi, in the extreme north of Italy).
"Within" continues the pattern of slow backbeats and a fondness for vocoders. It is, by far, one of the least lyrically superficial songs on the album (apart from "Touch"), exploring feelings of being lost and uncertain. "Instant Crush" (a Strokes-specific track) does, in fact, give you an instant crush with its simple melody and lyrics, quickly segueing into the Pharrell-laden track, "Lose Yourself to Dance." With a Kanye West tinge, this is easily one of the most addictive songs on the album. Repeating the mantra, "Lose yourself to dance," it's easy to do just that when you hear this song.
"Touch" another experimental sounding track in the vain of "Giorgio by Moroder," is eerie and 70s-tinged. Mystical and ambient, a vocoded voice states,“Touch. Touch. I remember touch. Touch. Touch. I need something more.” The unmistakable voice of Paul Williams (of The Carpenters) then fills the air with its mellifluousness. It might just be the most badass collaboration Daft Punk has ever done. The following track, “Get Lucky,” has been so played that there’s really no need to get too intricate about it, suffice it to say that Pharrell has noted that the song is more about getting lucky in a sexual way, but also getting lucky in the sense that you find someone you share a connection with.
“Beyond” is the most acoustic sounding song on Random Access Memories, with lively string accompaniments to build up to yet another 70s-feeling backbeat and a vocoder. But the unique part about this song is that it is almost like two songs in one with its misleading musical intro, which then transitions into something that could easily double as the theme for a new version of Shaft. “Motherboard” is one of the weaker songs in the collection, relying on ambient sounds to carry it through to the end.
The Todd Edwards collaboration, “Fragments of Time,” sounds like something that Band-Aid might have produced. Although I’m all for homages to 80s easy listening, there is something about this track that seems to be trying too hard. The next track, “Doin’ It Right” featuring Panda Bear is in keeping with the classic style and sound of Daft Punk and is at least in the top three best songs off Random Access Memories—and most definitely a stronger single than “Get Lucky” (though said single does have the advantage of extreme repetition, which American audiences love).
“Contact,” the serene conclusion to the album, echoes David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” with its astronaut voiceover introduction that transitions into a dramatic organ-sounding overture. Completely lyricless, the song is an indication that even though Daft Punk may have transcended to success in America, it doesn’t mean they’re not still going to do things their way. And, apparently, doing just that has still landed them the top spot on the Billboard album charts in the album’s first week of release. So if it takes Daft Punk to make America see that Europe is slightly superior (both musically and gastronomically), then maybe they really are superheroes in those new-fangled costumes of theirs.