It’s a journey that is at first sight slick and cool, monopolised by effortlessly nonchalant, polished beats and shimmering drums, but Daft Punk expertly navigate the emotional landscape of electronica, managing to inject their spaced-out melodies with tangible poignancy and emotion.
The record sees collaborations with a whole host of names such as Italian producer and performer Giorgio Morder, Paul Williams, Panda Bear, Chilly Gonzalez, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, Pharrell Williams of N*E*R*D, and many others. The effect of such a variety of artists is evident from the album’s rejection of any distinctive genre, shape shifting from classic Daft Punk electronica on ‘Doin’ It Right’ and foot-tapping disco-funk, to grandiose, visionary jazz-fusion epics like ‘Contact’. Their decision to work with live musicians for the majority of the album rather than relying on samples is also unmissable: the music is pulsing with life and bursting with musical innovation, with guitars, bass and drums at the forefront of most songs, epitomising this philosophy with the title of opening track ‘Give Life Back to Music’.
This unassuming opener starts the show with a guitar-driven disco track, composed of glittering, mellow grooves which explode into moments of grand and unexpected climax. Its resolutely danceable beat and vocoder-sung mantra to bring ‘the life back to music’ create the perfect opener for an album that sets out to bring heart and soul. The mood then transitions into the downtempo ‘The Game of Love’, an eerie, aching ode to unrequited love that treads carefully through plodding 80s synths, keyboards and strangely poignant auto-tuned vocals. It is uncanny to hear auto-tuned vocals bleed with emotion, using a tool that usually sacrifices emotional delivery.
The tone is then set perfectly for ‘Giorgio by Moroder’, a 9 minute exploration through irresistible funk, fizzy electronica and moody disco, climaxing in a gorgeously-arranged orchestral section. This is interspersed with disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder speaking about his life experiences as a musician, embodying the musical exploration of the album: ‘once you free your mind of the concept of harmony, and the music being correct, you can do whatever you want’.
The heartbreakingly sad ‘Within’ follows, marrying Chilly Gonzales’ simple piano melody with Daft Punk’s yearning, philosophical vocoder-sung lyrics: ‘there’s a whole world within me that I cannot explain’, expertly bridging the gap between the old and the futuristic. ‘Instant Crush’ firmly welds together a mellow, stomping disco beat with Julian Casablanca’s unrecognisably serene and auto-tuned vocals. The two tracks with Pharrell Williams, ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ and the now famous ‘Get Lucky’, stand out from the album as the two most instantly funky and catchy songs, guaranteed to bring the album to commercial success.
Other standouts from the album included ‘Beyond’s wistful, spaced-out funk and the chilled-out ‘Fragments of Time’, with irresistibly corny vocals from Todd Edwards. The album ends with ‘Contact’, a nerve-shattering, blistering odyssey through jazz-fusion and progressive rock which uses a recording of captain Eugene Cernan from the Apollo 17 mission, symbolising Daft Punk’s mission to take music to cosmic new worlds of innovative exploration.