Anyone who expected Random Access Memories to be an EDM Thriller doesn't know Daft Punk very well. True to the group's nature, the album doesn't just fly in the face of club-kid expectations; it declines to engage them. It's largely a vintage disco album made with analog equipment and techniques with lots of analog-era musicians. At times, the group's contrarian impulses result in a noseless, spite-ed face: They could have worked with some of the greatest singers in the world and instead chose wobbly warblers like a pair of P. Williamses (Paul and Pharrell), and vocoder'ed others into robotic anonymity. Giorgio Moroder, one of the greatest producers of the past 50 years, contributes a spoken-word piece.
You have to sit back and let RAM do the driving; demanding anything of it is futile. While the album has a couple of undeniable singles ("Lose Yourself to Dance" and, obviously, "Get Lucky"), it's often about sublime moments more than complete songs: the gorgeous choir-and-orchestra sweep in the middle section of "Touch"; the overlapping Glass-esque layers and meticulously funky rhythms on several tracks; the "Welcome to the Jungle"-evoking intro to "Give Life Back to Music"; the blistering closer "Contact," a car-chase soundtrack in search of a film. Random Access Memories is brilliant and frustrating in equal measure — and we get the feeling Daft Punk wouldn't have it any other way. JEM ASWAD