How an album is canonized ends up meaning a lot in the long run. I've not yet listened to "Be Here Now" or "St. Anger", but yet somehow I still file them in my head as punchlines, and certainly have no desire to listen to them over both artists' more acclaimed bodies of work. And this is all basically due to the long accepted truth by most that they kind of blow. I actually wonder sometimes if some of the people who make these retorts have actually given the albums a fair listen. Even with my patience, I'm hardly going to listen to an album I don't like enough to the point that my opinion feels validated.
Now, in my years of keeping up with the latest happenings in music, I honestly cannot think of a single album that was shrouded in as much mystery and hype as "Random Access Memories". It shows how big the "Alive" tour was for them, turning them from a group who put out some pretty good tunes around the turn of the century, to bonafide legends.
The strategy with how this album was released was genius too, the album became an event, something everyone needed to be a part of. Perhaps a more important album from 2013 will surface in the future, but for the time being, no album was a bigger deal in 2013 than this.
And thus comes the problem as brought to you by the scum of the internet: the haters! Because people are rather impressionable and it can be surprisingly easy for other people to give them opinions to stick on. What this means is that when this album was finally rolled out, there was a giant clusterf**k of opinions left, right and centre. Everyone wanting to make sure everyone else hears their opinion the loudest so they would adapt it to heart. Funnily enough, this is still happening months on. Whenever I read an opinion piece on this album, it's often met with a quick, sharp statement along the lines of ""Random Access Memories" actually was objectively amazing" or "Everyone knows "Random Access Memories" was shit anyway". It's as fascinating as it is sad.
And that's why I've waited until long after the event has passed to articulate my views. In general it's hard to take much grain to it if someone's only sat on an album for a few days and heard it once or twice. No one applauds a 'FIRST!' in comments sections after all.
I think this album sounds like what it was hyped up to be: It's a big album with big ambitions to be a game-changer. Whether that's happened can't yet be determined, but I do think this album does a good job of standing up to its tasks.
What's interesting about this album is just how adult-oriented it is. While a lot of modern dance music is all about loud noises being injected into your ears as frequently as possible, Daft Punk slow things down, with the focal point on here being attached to a lot of slow grooves. There's also a lot of callback to the '70s, with the guest appearances from Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder, as well as the combination of disco and yacht rock motifs. Even "Touch"'s reflective narrative reminds me of "Time" from Pink Floyd.
I find this album to be a journey of sorts. It opens with an immediate rush, and then it's just wall to wall of distinctive hits, culminating of course on the big hit single "Get Lucky". I feel perhaps after this point is the only time I can accuse it of containing 'filler', but that's only because there's a slight lack of personality towards the end in comparison to the start. The highlights for me incidentally come from some of these moments, "Motherboard" almost sounds like video game music to me, but it's also very evocative. "Contact" is an appropriate closer too, it's a massive burst of energy that's always exciting when going through the album from start to finish. I still think "Doin' It Right" is a bit of an oddball there, but I do get humour from the fact that so many people who have never heard of Animal Collective are now getting exposed to Panda Bear, and on a reasonably catchy and radio friendly tune as well.
This album fully delivers on its promise for me and is just a delight to listen to.