Review Summary: A great album with overall excellent production values, drags in a few moments but shines brightly at its peak.
By far the most hyped and talked about album of 2013. Outside of doing the soundtrack to TRON it's been 8 years since we've had a studio album from Daft Punk. To say the least, Daft Punk has evolved from their latest endeavors. Whether it stands up to Discovery is a matter of personal preference (although I imagine you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't find RAM more engaging than Human After All).
While I wasn't alive and hardly a twinkle in my father's eyes at the time. This album is in many ways a love letter to the disco era of the 70s and 80s. At the same time however it keeps heavy influences and pieces of their earlier work. There are great pieces of the album and there are parts that are don't shine quite as much.
The album starts off with [b]Give Life Back to Music[b] and as an initial reaction it's wonderful. The song is quick, catchy, rhythmic and a great kicker. While slightly repetitive it knows exactly when to build and when to slow down and does it quite well. Hearing the song build up with guitar chords near the end and deciding just to chill out into a very simple funky beat immediately after instead of going into some sort of intense "drop" almost feels refreshing in contrast to most modern dance music. [b]Game of Love[b] takes it much slower. And it took me quite a few listens to appreciate the song a little more. It's more mellow and dramatic song. However in the early stages of the song there are some very satisfying drum fills and it's hard not to enjoy the light synth carrying the song the whole way through. [b]Giorgio by Morodor[b] brings some more intensity back into the album, however not without an initial 2 minute monologue of Italian musician and producer Giovanni Giorgio (which I'm sure plenty of your friends who've never heard of him will go on to tell you how legendary and important he is to music...I'll be honest and say I had never heard of him before this album however, pardon my ignorance). Once the music does kick it immediately bring back feelings of the Tron soundtrack onto the table later adding in some light piano and jazz breakdown into the mix. All up to the end it shows pieces of orchestral music and some old school hip hop influences near the end but eventually ends as it continually builds up the initial hook of the album.
Going into next a song like [b]Within[b] seems like Daft Punk was initially trying to go from fast songs into more fast songs back and forth. And while I don't dislike the song perse, it almost feels as if Daft Punk wanted to make fans reminisce through some of these slower romantic songs back to the likes of [b]Something About Us[b] and [b]Digital Love[b] and sadly Within just doesn't compare at all. The first minute of soft instrumentals is a lot more enjoyable than the rest of the song. I'd have more opinion on the song, but it failed to bring anything out in me particular. It's a relaxing and chill song but for me it ends there. [b]Instant Crush[b] keeps with the chill and mellow feeling but builds up to something much more fun and lively. As well showcasing Julian Casablancas voice which adds a new flavor to the album. The instrumentals carrying the track for the majority unfortunately are one of the weaker aspects of it while the chorus brings a lot of life into the song. Over even a few listens it became one of the best tracks on the album for me.
[b]Lose Yourself to Dance[b] is probably my least favorite song on the album as a whole. It starts off great, very funky very catchy and while the initial impression with Pharrell on the track is quite positive. After 2 minutes of the song and the only words of the song being spoken over and over are "Lose yourself to Dance" I was earnestly disappointed in the 2nd Pharrell track off the album after hearing Get Lucky on the radio. Quickly rectified however, the following track [b]Touch[b] is the strongest track on the album. Initially it didn't quite click to me but something about the song kept bringing me back. Totally unlike anything else on the album. The odd intro feels entirely necessary as to help the initial vocals of the song to have some emotional impact and that truthfully is what makes this song so grand. There is a real emotional connection with the lyrics and the theme of the song. IE the theme being touch, and the sadness of having had the knowledge of touch with another person and then losing that. After the vocal track ends we're shown a much lighter side of the song with very joyous and celebratory instrumentals and eventually brought into a more hopeful side as we hear the line "If love is the reason you hold, hold on" repeated for the final couple minutes of the song. While the song does go quite all over the place it seems almost necessary for it to be the exact way it is because I can hardly imagine it any other way. And as the song finally lets go and finishes with a soft and sad monologue throwing back to the initial vocal tracks leaves you with a almost longing feeling towards the track as it leads flawlessly into the infamous [b]Get Lucky[b]. While no doubt everyone has heard it already the album version has a few nicer quirks than the single version and as far as my opinion goes so well with Touch that I have a hard time listening to either song without the other to lead into or out of each other. The emotions conveyed in each contrast and complement each other very well. While Touch was sad and emotional, Get Lucky is upbeat, infectious and much more sexual and romantic. Touch and Get Lucky mark for me the point in the album where it truly picks up and becomes a very consistently positive experience.
[b]Beyond[b] opens with a short but sweet orchestral bit leading into some very disco-ey beats carried by trade mark Daft Punk robotic vocal styles and closer to the end we again see the subtle Tron influences within the track. By far one of the strongest songs on the album. [b]Motherboard[b] continue this trend and showcases the precision and evolution Daft Punk have developed throughout the years. It's a very ethereal sounding song and feels very tranquil to listen to. If the rest of the album shone as much as the final songs on it then it would easily be a truly classic album. [b]Fragments of Time[b] brings back the same dancing feelings that Get Lucky gave us. Rhythmic, fun and infectious and immensely chill at the same time, the ending uplifts so much the only real flaw is that the song isn't longer. [b]Doin' It Right[b] is while shows some slowing small drop in quality, as far as to compare it to the other insanely repetitive song on the album (Lose Yourself to Dance). It does it better at least and that's heavily because of the vocals added in by Panda Bear. It is the weakest song off of the albums 2nd half but it's not altogether a bad song either. And to finish off the album comes [b]Contact[b] which feels very dark and foreboding almost to begin but quickly coming in with (again) very Tron-esque synth style. Further showcasing Daft Punk's ability to use all the knowledge and skill they've grown and developed over the years without entirely tossing an old style onto the back burner. And while the ending itself is a bit dragged out it does feel the most appropriate way to end the hour and fifteen minute running time of the album.
As a whole, Daft Punk made a very solid album with RAM. The tracks that bring it down are few and far between and where it shines it shines very brightly, mostly within its 2nd half. Whether it compares to something like Discovery is a matter of personal taste as they are both truly fantastic album each in their own regard. As well very different in that also.