Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories: A Track-by-Track Feel-AlongDavid Black
This Monday, Daft Punk made their fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, available to stream for free in its entirety on iTunes. Grantland’s Steven Hyden will be posting a proper critical review of Random Access Memories next week, but staff writer Rembert Browne and editor Emily Yoshida have been waiting for this moment all their lives and needed a safe, non-cynical space to listen to these 74 minutes of music and work out some feelings. So go ahead, hit play, and let’s do this together.
“Give Life Back to Music”
0:01 Browne: ROCK OPERA. MEATLOAF. YES.
0:05 Yoshida: Daft Punk know exactly how much of a tizzy they’ve whipped us into these past three months, and now they are seeing if they can actually rupture our brains inside our skulls with happiness. DO YOUR WORST, GENTLEMEN.
0:17 Browne: Never mind. Rock opera was just a tease. A fantastic tease. This song feels like it belongs in a smoky room where everyone’s exchanging seductive glances over glasses of whisky neat, but no interactions actually take place, with the culmination simply being a synchronized, all-room shoulder shimmy.
0:25 Yoshida: It’s so smooth. How do they get it so smooth? This sounds like the all-white rooftop pool bathed in warm foreversunset that I will be lounging next to in the afterlife if I play my cards right.
0:50 Yoshida: CUE ROBOTS. Welcome back, guys. With this sweet little ditty, they’re welcoming us into their sequinned fiberglass airbrushed chillpad, Continental-style. Excellent hosts so far.
1:55 Browne: BACK TO ROCK OPERA. BAT OUT OF HELL, EMILY. MEATLOAF.
2:50 Browne: One thing that I’ll never know if I hate or love about Daft Punk is the number of times a hook is repeated. Sometimes, it feels genius and necessary, other times like a bad Family Guy joke. This example is leaning more bad than good.
4:15 Yoshida: Ultimately “Give Life Back to Music” feels like an overture, not really a song, like something to set the mood as the lights lower and the usher shows you to your seats. As that, though, it pretty much does its job. I am now primed for jams, but something* tells me I may have to wait
[*the fact that this is the 118th time I have listened to this album, maybe]
“The Game of Love”
4:34 Browne: This is a sexy album so far. It’s like 2013 Roger and Zapp, which is the highest compliment I’m capable of dishing out.
5:10 Yoshida: Dang. I was ready to jump in the pool, but they went straight for the bedroom. Is that a steel guitar?
6:17 Browne: Yes. Also (and I don’t fully know what I mean by this) this song sounds like water. Like, the visual montage accompanying this track would be a couple dancing under a waterfall. Or doing laps in a swimming pool and running into each other and falling in love. Or something else involving liquid.
7:02 Yoshida Part of me wishes this album wasn’t already lulling me into FutureSex/LoveSleep, but also, it’s really pretty. It would also be good for driving if you had a convertible and were on Quaaludes and I guess weren’t actually driving but had a nice sober chauffeur you could trust.
8:00 Browne: I’m serious, draw yourself a bubble bath, submerge yourself, and then listen to this song. “The Game of Love” is a dish best served while partially drowning.
9:49 Browne: What just happened was a bubble bath sex lullaby. It’s been a while since I heard one of those.
“Giorgio by Moroder”
9:57 Browne: Before the song starts, I just want to mention there’s no way to see this title and not think of the knockoff cologne you wore to junior prom.
11:03 Yoshida: Do you think Daft Punk even touched this track? Either way, very excited about this. Also, I’m going to sell bottles of Giorgio by Moroder from the basket of my Vespa next year at Coachella. (Gotta get a Vespa first. We’re only three tracks in and my list of vehicles I need to purchase has already gotten out of hand.)
10:22 Browne: A weakness of mine: people casually talking over instrumentals on albums. This move is usually saved for the end of an album (see: Kanye West’s “Last Call”), but I don’t mind it 10 minutes in, because why not?
10:56 Yoshida: It’s hard to imagine Giorgio Moroder sleeping in his car when he’s talking over all those plexiglass sex guitars.
11:30 Yoshida: THE CLICK TRACK. It’s like every Intro to Music Theory class companion CD and it’s also on the most anticipated album of the year. We’re learning things.
11:50 Browne: I wish he wouldn’t stop talking. Ever.
12:35 Yoshida: Kind of bummed that I’m never going to play “Giorgio by Moroder” at a party because of the 73-year-old Italian man talking over half of it (much as I adore and respect him and consider “Chase” to be some of the most crucial road trip music ever composed), but this jam in the middle is serious business. It’s the missing link between the soundtracks to NeverEnding Story and Tron: Legacy.
15:01 Browne: GIORGIO BACK
15:05 Yoshida: With heavenly reverb!
15:42 Browne: So far, this song is five songs in one. And there are still more than three minutes left.
15:47 Browne: And there’s the sixth song.
16:12 Yoshida: Strings and live drums are the fastest way to make me cry. Let’s get to the next song before I embarrass myself in front of the whole Grantland office.
16:25 Browne: I pray to god no one is listening to this through headphones. If you are, turn this off and find the largest, most acoustically superior venue available and blast it. There’s just a lot happening that those white iPod buds can’t handle.
16:30 Yoshida: I’M AT WORK, REM
16:55 Browne: The seventh song (within this one song) just began, which sounds like a slight throwback to Korn. Related: Where are the offices? I’d love to meet everyone.
17:18 Yoshida: The drums are so fucking killer on this song. That is all.
17:43 Browne: It feels like you’re standing by the speakers at a Daft Punk concert. Or in the speakers. Or you just swallowed the speakers.
18:06 Browne: Something resembling this song is what I always imagined playing once you beat Halo. A mix of celebratory fanfare, lasers, explosions, and an MPC.
18:38 Browne: I’m exhausted. Don’t listen to that at work, unless you want to get fired.
18:40 Yoshida: TOO LATE, REM
18:54 Yoshida Fantastic comedown. Please let this be the downbeat for the next track.
19:15 Yoshida: I listened to the live stream for the first time while Gchatting with a Grantland contributor who shall not be named while he/she was listening at more or less at the same time, and who said he/she skipped over “Within” on the first listen. I can understand, because a rhythmless piano intro is not the best way to transition from the overwhelming climax of “Giorgio,” but, well wait for it.
19:47 Yoshida: Natural Wonders circa 1995. My entire spine has turned into one chill.
19:53 Yoshida: Seamless transition to keyboard brings us back to the crystal velvet sunset rooftop, but STORM CLOUDS HAVE GATHERED IN THE DISTANCE.
19:58 Browne: There was really no going up after the previous song, so I appreciate this relaxing, slow-dance, wind chime–enhanced track. I’m not sure if I like it, but at least it’s bringing my heart rate down to a safe level.
20:05 Yoshida: Did I say nothing makes me cry faster than strings and live drums? I meant that NOTHING MAKES ME CRY FASTER THAN A SAD SINGING ROBOT.
20:07 Browne: Are you OK?
20:32 Yoshida ALL THE SAD EMOJIS. I think when I first listened to the stream this was the point at which I had to cover my mouth with both hands and look around the office to make sure nobody could see me laughing and crying at the same time at how great this song was.
21:39 Browne: One of the few issues I have with Daft Punk (which is a personal problem, no fault to them) is that if I heard a song, like this, and didn’t know it was a Daft Punk song, would I give it the time of day? When presented with that question about “Get Lucky,” the first single, I still stand by thinking it’s a great track. “Within,” not so much.
21:54 REM. YOU ARE INSANE AND/OR MADE OF STONE. I’m tearing up again and this is the 15th time I’ve listened to this song.
23:19 Browne: Julian. Freaking. Casablancas.
23:32 Yoshida: This chord progression is so angsty. I think we are in the angsty part of the album now. The melody doesn’t slay me off the bat, but I bet I wouldn’t even be thinking about that if Casablancas was not on the vocoder. There are already so many robot voices on this album, no need to assimilate Julian, too.
24:14 Yoshida: Counterargument: those Auto-Tune trills when his voice goes up.
24:27 Browne: I think I like everything about this song except the hook. He’s squeezing about six too many words into a very small space, and you can barely make out what he’s saying, which is the opposite of my desired Julian Casablancas experience.
24:43 Yoshida: That’s a fair point; Casablancas is mumbly enough as is, but you are, again, crazy if that hook doesn’t make you want to stand up and pull that foxy man or lady in your life onto the dance floor for some coy shuffling.
25:55 Yoshida: GUITAR/INTERPRETIVE DANCE SOLO
27:49 Browne: The last 30 seconds, with no vocals, are probably the high point, no disrespect to Julian and/or Emily Yoshida LLC.
27:52 Yoshida: Side-eyeing you so hard right now.
“Lose Yourself to Dance”
28:27 Browne: Spoiler alert: This is the best Pharrell/Daft Punk song on the album.
29:47 Browne: Give me an example in which the addition of hand claps made a song worse. Seriously, I dare you. Double dare, actually, because it’s never happened. Still very confused why every artist hasn’t figured this out.
30:26 Yoshida: That Comeoncomeoncomeoncomeoncomeoncomeoncomeon in alternating stereo is like audio acupuncture. I am finding myself involuntarily trying to lose myself to dance.
31:19 Browne: I find myself following the instructions of the title while listening to this song. Becoming lost in dance by way of Daft Punk and Pharrell’s higher register isn’t a bad way to spend life.
32:20 Browne: This breakdown. Forever. Rhythm guitar strums plus hand claps. Thank you.
33:05 Browne: Another example of the Daft hook repetition, but unlike “Give Life Back to Music,” I could enjoy this for 10 minutes.
33:18 Yoshida: I’m not just trying to get back at you for not crying during “Within,” Rem, but this one actually does test my repetition threshold. I think the tempo, which seems two beats slower than it should be, doesn’t help.
Browne: You’re still super pissed.
34:07 Browne: I don’t know why they faded this song out, as if they slowly turned down the volume knob, but I’m glad they did.
34:13 Yoshida: Somewhere in a studio in Paris, Pharrell is all by himself, still singing the hook.
35:07 Browne: I read and hear “Touch” and still think about Omarion, which is something I need to deal with on my own time — sorry for even bringing this up.
35:20 Yoshida: I’ll forget I heard that. “I remember ‘Touch'”? Holy shit. This might be too high-concept for me, or just high-concept enough.
36:15 Browne: Paul Williams’s voice after almost two minutes was startling. This track just became a musical.
36:35 Yoshida: Good thing all the 18-year-old EDM kids left halfway through “Giorgio.”
37:16 Browne: Oh, so this will probably be my favorite song. I can’t believe they stuck vocals that resemble a deep cut from Guys and Dolls and threw it over high hats and other assorted Daft Punk noises.
37:25 Yoshida: This is so beautiful and weird and gentle and cinematic that I can’t even really talk about it properly.
37:50 Browne: And now this song sounds like a ’70s sitcom theme song. How can this get better?
38:37 Browne: Oh, by slowing it down and adding some heavy piano chords and a choir. This is a roller coaster. The best kind.
38:55 Yoshida: Robot barbershop quartet. I hope Daft Punk and Paul Williams don’t run out of any ideas in the next three minutes. Something tells me they won’t.
40:13 Browne: Now we’ve entered some sort of time-space continuum, but it’s the same song, which is allowed when there are no rules.
40:50 Yoshida: This part of the song I need to listen to while riding a horse. Vehicle list: still growing.
41:15 Browne: Say what you will about Daft Punk, they’re nailing the checklist of “things that make a song perfect.” So far, they’ve completed “hand claps” and “choir.”
42:13 Yoshida: “YOU’VE GIVEN ME TOO MUCH TO FEEL.” True sentiment in this case.
42:29 Browne: Another thing on that list, “an old man with a lot of pain in his voice singing as if he’s on his final breath.” Bless you, Paul Williams, hopefully the long-lost father of Pharrell Williams.
42:40 Browne: This song is great. I am happy, however, that it’s not the best song on the album. Good enough to get you excited for the album, a no-brainer for radio (even though it is certainly not a typical “mainstream”-sounding song), but not the high point.
43:01 Yoshida: The first time I heard “Get Lucky” I couldn’t wait for it to be summer. I’m really glad that RAM ended up being a cohesive enough album that there’s a little bit of that sweaty, sun-kissed vibe in all its tracks, but it’s still the most concentrated here. This song sounds like getting out of that afterlife swimming pool from “Give Life Back to Music” after the last swim of the day and walking barefoot across the still-warm poolside asphalt while drying off and thinking about what you’re going to do that night. And that could come off as transgressive or empty-headed, but the whole thing is so, so, positive and pure.
47:03 Browne: This song is heavily layered, but it’s nice that Pharrell’s vibrato-free high register still stands out above everything.
47:25 Yoshida: Really scared of the day I become sick of this song. Don’t see it coming anytime soon, though.
47:44 Browne: I would like to formally congratulate Pharrell for going 2-for-2. You’re going to make it in this music business, my friend. I’m sure of it. “Lose Yourself to Dance” into “Touch” into “Get Lucky” is a phenomenal 20 minutes of music.
47:54 Yoshida: That whirl of a bass line transitioning out of the end of the chorus is one of the 200 things that are perfect about this song.
49:42 Yoshida: Once again, we’re in the Quaalude convertible. Good to be back.
50:07 Browne: Like “Within” after “Giorgio by Moroder,” “Beyond” following that 20 minutes of good feels strategically placed just to let the listeners catch their breath before the final third of the album.
50:43 Yoshida: If “Give Life Back to Music” was an overture, “Beyond” is an intermission. I think tracks like this are essential when you’re listening to an album all the way through, but nobody does that anymore, so “Beyond” will probably be unfairly maligned. It’s nice in exactly the same way “Give Back” and “Game of Love” were, but doesn’t really elaborate on that niceness.
51:58 Browne: I won’t lie, a minute went by and I completely wandered off into a daydream.
52:52 Browne: In the same vein as the first two tracks, this is another sultry Daft song, one fit for attempted wooing.
54:09 Yoshida: PERCUSSION. STRINGS. WINDS. WORDS?
54:52 Browne: This is another track that, when played loudly, feels as if you’re in the room with the band as all the various instruments are being played. Very few studio albums that I’ve heard have this same effect.
56:14 Yoshida: It’s starting to get Tron-y.
56:48 Browne: And just like that, the song just melted. Or exploded. Or someone spilled water on the keyboard.
56:52 Yoshida: YES
57:40 Yoshida: IT’S SO DARK IN THE MOTHERBOARD
3:45 Browne: It sounds like a monsoon is taking place in their recording studio, but for some reason, instead of taking cover, they decided to keep playing. They are so cray.
57:54 Yoshida: A gentle ray of synthesizer light. When listened to on headphones, it seems to be piercing directly through my brain stem.
58:30 Yoshida: “Motherboard” is the first of two not-overtly-retro long instrumental tracks on this album, and while I love Daft Punk’s approach to nostalgia, this felt genuinely exciting, like a sound I’d never heard before.
59:06 Browne: I think they recorded this album in the rain forest.
“Fragments of Time”
59:52 Browne: Oh hello there, Hall & Oates tribute band. Why have you been moonlighting as Daft Punk this entire time?
59:58 Yoshida: Not ashamed to say I am already skipping over this track every time. Sorry, Todd Edwards. Still love “Face to Face.”
1:01:59 Browne: I need more proof this song wasn’t recorded in 1985.
“Doin’ It Right”
1:04:05 Yoshida: I promised myself I’d only do this once in this post, so here it is: UNFFFFFF.
1:04:10 Browne: This is a jam.
1:04:24 Yoshida: The bass comes in, and I melt into hot Popsicle goo.
1:04:56 Yoshida: I’ve heard complaints that this song never really turns into a danceable jam, but it’s the perfect last song of the night. It’s in walking tempo so it still feels natural to sway back and forth and put your hands up and just feel pure sugary summery happiness, and it’s got that one slightly melancholy chord that grabs your heart as well.
1:04:20 Yoshida: Ignore the glasses in my byline for a second and try to take me seriously when I say Panda Bear is a national treasure.
1:05:43 Browne: The last third of this album needed a song to reach the same heights as “Giorgio by Moroder” and the Williams trifecta in the middle, and this is it.
1:06:35 Yoshida: Minimalist, Knife-y synths were just what this song needed at the two-thirds mark.
Browne: It is super Knife-y. YOU SEE THAT, YOSHIDA. I’M AGREEING WITH YOU BECAUSE I DON’T KEEP HATE IN MY HEART.
1:06:54 Browne: This is the Daft Punkiest song on the album. Easily.
1:07:20 Yoshida: Full disclosure: I’ve had this song stuck in my head for about 24 hours now.
1:07:55 Browne: Scratch what I said earlier, this is my favorite song.
1:08:01 Yoshida: I just love everything so much right now.
1:08:50 Browne: “Contact” feels like the second half of “Motherboard,” in the sense that they both sound like underwater space operas from the year 3500.
1:09:25 Yoshida: The great thing about “Contact” is that it both sounds like outer space and like EVERY TEENAGE EMOTION. It’s oversize and dramatic, and it’s the first track I don’t need to buy a new vehicle for; I just want to run as fast as I can to it.
1:10:05 Yoshida: It just builds and builds. The DRUMS.
1:10:55 Browne: I think the Who would be very proud of this song. Actually, I think Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend might be under all the robot garb.
1:11:09 Yoshida: Yup, Rem nailed it. Look at us. Friends again!
1:11:44 Yoshida: The final ascent has begun, but I’m not ready to say good-bye to this album yet.
1:12:15 Browne: This sounds like a space shuttle launch. This might just be the live feed from Cape Canaveral.
1:12:38 Yoshida: SOME COLLEGE STUDENT IS BLOGGING ABOUT HOW THIS SONG SOUNDS LIKE SEX AND THEY ARE DUMB BUT ALSO NOT WRONG
Browne: I AM STILL THAT COLLEGE STUDENT
1:12:58 Browne: I’m about to get a noise complaint.
1:14:17 Browne: Find me a more intense way to end an album. It’s like they put a triple dose of deer antler spray on the crescendo from “A Day in the Life.”
1:14:08 Yoshida:We made it. Welcome to Earth, robots.
1:14:27 Browne: So much robot water sex. I’m exhausted.
- “Doin’ It Right”
- “Giorgio by Moroder”
- “Lose Yourself to Dance”
Least favorite: “Instant Crush”
- “Doin’ It Right”
- “Get Lucky”
- “Giorgio by Moroder”
Least favorite: “Fragments of Time”
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