Review Summary: I like it.
The new Daft Punk album has received a tremendous amount of hype, and for good reason. It's been 8 years since the legendary duo's last studio album (and 12 since their last good studio album). So how does Random Access Memories hold up? Is it on par with Discovery? Heavens no, but it is enjoyable.
RAM is very laid-back compared to what we are used to from Daft Punk. Some songs have heavier sections, but they are usually accompanied by extended periods of rest that keep them from really becoming "driving" in terms of beat. The dance-worthy yet chilled lead single, "Get Lucky," is actually one of the more uptempo songs on the album. Sometimes this lightweight atmosphere works to the album's advantage, and slower, contemplative songs like "Beyond" and "The Game of Love" are some of the album's best moments. Unfortunately the album throws a few downright boring tracks our way as well, mainly "Within," which recalls elements of cheesy 70's piano balladry in the worst way possible, despite decent lyrics.
Despite the laid-back feel, this is some of the most complex music Daft Punk has made, both in terms of arrangement and composition. Album centerpiece "Touch" is most notable. It starts with Stockhausen-esque minimalist noises, before becoming a piano ballad, and then becoming a disco number with ragtime piano (!) and trumpet. It also features a choir and singer-songwriter Paul Williams within it's 8 minute run-time. When Daft Punk put out Homework in 1997, this was the last thing anyone expected them to record.
One track that really struck me is "Instant Crush," featuring Julian Casablancas of The Strokes. It's a great mid-tempo cut with a solid groove and a catchy chorus, and features an interesting electronically-altered version of Julian's usual singing style. It's a little too melancholy to be the next single, which will probably be "Lose Yourself to Dance," but it's an album highlight nevertheless.
Comparisons to Discovery are inevitable with this album, since both are heavily influenced by 70's music, particularly disco. One advantage Discovery has is that it's extremely consistent; every song on it is memorable, and only a few songs are relatively sub-par compared to the rest of the album. RAM, on the other hand, does have a few clunkers, such as the aforementioned "Within" and the disappointing Todd Edwards collaboration "Fragments of Time." But it does have its moments, and fortunately it has more good moments than bad ones.
Random Access Memories isn't all it was hyped up to be, but who cares? I like it.