Unless you have been living under a rock these past few weeks, then you would have probably listened to Daft Punk’s new album, Random Access Memories. Even cafés and stores that turn on music really loud outside are playing its title track “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams. This is Daft Punk’s most recent release, eight years after Human After All and 12 years after the critically acclaimed album Discovery.
It is amazing to see such a band produce four solid albums over the span of 16 years since their debut in 1997. It is more than safe to say that Daft Punk ignited the popularity of European electro music as well as created groundwork for it to flourish in Europe at the time. However, the music scene and its trends have changed quite a lot since then. Various genres have emerged out of electronica - with dubstep being the most notable recent example – that some music fans consider as nothing more than noise. Musicians such as Skrillex, whose music is actually more carefully crafted than most people give credit, have come to rely more on computer-aided sounds and production to create music. Auto-Tune, a computer program that was originally intended for less professional singers to help them correct off-key pitches, is now being used to create trendy robotic vocal sounds that can be heard in popular music created by Korean idol groups and alternative rock bands alike. The music industry has clearly been suffering from this then original, now repetitive sound.
Our favorite French duo, however, has come to save us all from our bore, not by bring something new to the table but by bringing back old and classic sounds. This is even hinted at the album cover featuring a half new, half old Daft Punk helmet (which, on a side note, has a hilarious parody on the Internet using a half new, half old Cuckoo rice cooker). Their signature robotic vocals - which are created by vocoders and harmonziers that require craftsmanship, not Auto-Tune - are still there, but Random Access Memories seems to focus more on the instrumentals rather than computer-generated sounds. If you listen to the songs, it is hard not to fall in love with them just for their incredibly addicting guitar riffs. The whole of the album seems to be paying homage to the aspect of music that Daft Punk initially fell in love with for them to create their own: the sound of the late 70’s and early 80’s and music of classic artists such as Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd. The albums also has featuring artists including Panda Bear of Animal Collective, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, and the famous Italian record producer, song-writer, and performer Gorgio Moroder.
Random Access Memories not only satisfies both old and new fans of their music but also reminds us of something essential: looking back and reminding ourselves with what is important. Just as the music industry is constantly undergoing changes, experiencing trends, and having ups and downs, so are our lives. It is easy to let ourselves follow trends when making decisions, whether they have to do with buying a pair of shoes or choosing a career path. It is also easy to get lost in the midst of our fast-paced lives with each and every day flying by, mindlessly completing one task after another. It is easy to find yourself drowning in the responsibilities that you forget why you chose to achieve or take them on in the first place, or worse, become careless about and indifferent to them. If you find yourself in this dark and hollow pit, think back and remind yourself of why these things are important to you and what values they hold. If your life is speeding and it isn’t stopping, try to relax even for a minute or two to regain yourself; maybe even give Random Access Memories a full listen if you haven’t yet. They’ll know that you don’t get a chance to take a break this often, so just go ahead and take Daft Punk’s shirt and wipe off all the sweat, and lose yourself to dance.
Ji Ha Kim