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Random Access Memories is a 2010’s dance odyssey, a near-classic in that vein

MOORHEAD — This review will be different than my previous reviews, in that this is not a new album. In fact, this album has just recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary (Well, not really recently. The anniversary was in May, but music has no statute of limitations!). I definitely remember the lead single from this album, “Get Lucky,” very well as it was everywhere at the time. Hearing it on the radio, in restaurants, hearing other people singing it. You could NOT escape that song. My memories of Random Access Memories kind of end there though, and that’s definitely unfortunate because this album just sounds…sparkly. 

It’s almost hard to believe this album came out in 2013, because if it dropped in 2023, it would sound just as pristine as it did in 2013. The album opens with the one-two punch of “Give Life Back to Music” and “The Game of Love.” “Give Life Back to Music” is an extravagant Disco opener with Nile Rodger’s iconic guitar sound (Rodgers also lends his guitar work to Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance) and dancefloor ready grooves, while “The Game of Love” is a more lowkey funk song with atmospheric synthesizers, and lyrics concerning heartbreak.  

One-half of Daft Punk, Thomas Bangalter, did a Rolling Stone interview in 2013, saying “There’s this thing today where the recorded human voice is processed to try to feel robotic. Here, we were trying to make robotic voices sound the most human they’ve ever sounded, in terms of expressivity and emotion,” and never was this more true than on the ballads on the album like the “Within” which expands on the themes of disconnection on “The Game of Love,” with an instrumental that feels like floating across space with how much room the mix in the song has; the amount of emotion Daft Punk pulls out of their vocoders makes for a great juxtaposition between the lyrical content, and the robotic nature of the vocals.  

Multiple tracks on the album as well feature these longer, less dance-oriented songs that would be best described as voyages in the way they treat the listener through an ever-evolving song throughout its runtime. “Giorgio by Moroder” is the first of these songs on the album, and unique in how it tells the story of disco/dance music pioneer Giorgio Moroder. The beat drop that comes in after Moroder says  “My name is Giovanni Giorgio / But everybody calls me Giorgio” is simply iconic. “Touch” with Paul Williams is simply beautiful with it’s reverbed choral vocals, and sweeping orchestral swells, with the similar outer space feel of “Within” with a more maximalist approach. 

“Instant Crush” with Julian Casablancas has the best chorus on the album, and Casablancas’ vocal performance is the stickiest part. “Lose Yourself to Dance” with Pharrell Williams I’ve seen garner criticism for its repetitiveness, but this is textbook dancefloor funk. How can you hate this? The way this develops with the addition of Nile Rodgers’ guitar work makes for the ultimate head nodder on the album. The big hit from the album “Get Lucky” is similar with an even stickier hook, (no wonder it ruled pop radio!). The production of this album really gets to shine with a song like this as everything is just so clean. A great throwback to the music of that time period, and one of the best pop singles of the 2010’s. 

“Beyond” opens with this big orchestra sound before delving into a stank-inducing vocoder-led groove, and “Motherboard” is a more electronic-led song with slick synth arpeggios. Fragments of Time with Todd Edwards is a song I’ve never really cared for. The chorus on the song is noticeably weaker than everything else on the album, sounding more like a children’s show theme song than anything else on the album. This is a similar with “Doin it Right” which starts with these groovy vocoder vocals, but the moment Panda Bear comes in, the song just falls apart as it becomes clear there’s not much behind the song.  

The album bounces back with “Contact” which is another musical voyage album with an epic build up that ends the album with these amazing fuzzy synth arpeggios and hard-hitting acoustic drums that feel absolutely punishing (in the best way!), before ending in a noisy electronic wash, ending a great album.  

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