Daft Punk, "Random Access Memories" (Columbia)
On its wildly anticipated fourth studio album, "Random Access Memories," helmeted duo Daft Punk go harder, better, faster, stronger than ever before.
The eight-year wait for new music paid off as Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter weave an intellectually seductive sonic landscape with a rewarding amount of catchy beats. It's the first time Daft Punk leaves the computer at home, using only live instruments, a modular synthesizer and vintage vocoders, the latter of which are heavily employed.
The 13-track record investigates the boundaries of art versus science through time by sampling a '70s and '80s sound as interpreted by machines invented in 2040. But make no mistake, there are about two songs that put the spunky D in EDM and both are Pharrell's contributions -- "Get Lucky" and "Lose Yourself to Dance."
The rest of the tunes explore variations of the symbiosis between man and artificial constructs. Paul Williams' warm voice balances the eerie space built by synths in "Touch," while "The Game of Love" is a wistful funk love letter to humanity. The sound veers between jazzy, cinematic, disco, postmodern funk and even provincial Balkanic bodega in the 1980s.
A heady mix of delayed gratification songs that push boundaries, "Random Access Memories" is the mirror image of its authors: mysterious, challenging, brave and a little bit crazy.