Random Access Memories Review

Random Access Memories Review

Music
daft punk
Welcome back.

Hey, everybody! It’s been far too long since the last post and there’s good reason for it! Primarily life got in the way but it’s also because we’ve been trying to figure out a way to revamp the site. We want to find ways to bring you guys better content instead of just the same stuff you find on every other pop culture site. We’re still ironing out the details of our new direction but until we’re ready to make a full post on the changes I figured I’d go ahead and do a review for the latest Daft Punk album Random Access Memories.

This is without question my favorite album, not only of the year but of the past five years. Random Access Memories is being called a radical departure for Daft Punk, whose last album Human After All received a relatively mixed reception. In truth, this isn’t a departure so much as it is a return to roots. When I say roots I don’t mean back to their Homework days but rather their formative roots. If you wanted to call Random Access Memories a disco album you could, but you would be throwing out the numerous other influences that form this beautiful album. This album isn’t just a tribute to the dance music that Guy Manuel and Thomas grew up on: it’s the real thing. Nothing about this album feels like homage or like it was “influenced” by 70s and 80s dance music. It is, instead, a sort of missing album as though it was some great classic record that was recorded in that time period and then locked away.

The album’s authenticity is sealed with the presence of artists such as guitar legend Nile Rodgers and Rainbow Connection writer Paul Williams. However this isn’t just a throwback album, or something that is trying to be retro. I consider this as Daft Punk’s sort of “rescue mission” for dance music. In this day and age it’s hard to find dance music that makes you actually want to dance. EDM has always been trend driven but it seems that it is more true now than ever. In a way Daft Punk is pulling a Back to the Future on us. They’re going back to the genre’s roots to build a new future. Their intention is made explicitly clear with the opening track, an explosion called “Give Life Back to Music.”

The decision to use predominantly live music is a genius one on the duo’s part. There’s only one track that actually uses samples, but you hardly notice. This album feels like Daft Punk’s most complete and it would be completely fine to go ahead and consider it as a follow up to what is arguably their masterpiece, Discovery. Tracks like Get Lucky, Lose Yourself to Dance, Instant Crush, and Fragments of Time show off the duo’s ability to write songs with great lyrics. Other tracks like Game of Love and Touch have a heartbreaking quality to them. This is an album that has no problem getting downbeat. The album also dares to do a track that is definitely not traditional with the interview/instrumental piece Giorgio by Moroder which layers an interview with producing legend Giorgio Moroder. That particular track’s interview is pretty cool and is an incredibly interesting bit of storytelling.

So what did I not like about the album? Well, not much, to be honest. If I had to complain about anything it would be that some songs take a minute before finding their footing, especially Touch which opens with a relatively creepy voiceover. I would imagine that there will be plenty of Daft Punk fans who consider this their breakup album with the duo. I heard numerous people say it didn’t sound like Daft Punk to them. Some of the lyrics can be a little bit cheesy by the standards of some, but I like a lot of stuff that people consider cheesy so it didn’t really phase me.

Random Access Memories is arguably Daft Punk’s masterpiece. By removing themselves from the EDM style they helped to create they somehow manage to retain their identity and overall style. The production value is extraordinary and authentic. It never feels like a half-hearted tribute. I only hope that this sparks some interesting new directions in pop music as a whole and brings us into a sorely needed music revolution. Even if it doesn’t, Daft Punk have delivered a fantastic album that highlights an amazing era in pop music while uniting it with some of today’s talent. This is the album of the Summer for some, and the album of the year for me.

I highly recommend that you pick this up and if you haven’t already then you can do so down below!

Why So Nostalgic?

Why So Nostalgic?

Movies Music

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Look around pop culture these days and you can’t help but notice how nostalgia has seeped into just about every form of entertainment we have now. Some people are looking at this as a great trip down memory lane. Others are looking at it as a stifling of new creativity. Nostalgia is a tricky beast to nail down, especially given that access to things that make us nostalgic are at our fingertips literally whenever we want. Think about it: once upon at time if you wanted to hear your favorite song from childhood you would have to actually go out and buy it. You had to commit a physical effort to reclaim that piece of your childhood. Now you don’t even have to pay a single red cent because, hey, You Tube is free (for now).

So what does this ease of access to the things from our past say about our generation and our seeming reliance on nostalgia? Being honest, I say it means a lot more good than bad. However, for argument’s sake, I’m going to start with the bad. Here it is: Hipsters. Hipsterism is not a new thing, and I’m certainly not one of those people who likes to bash on hipsters every chance they get. To me they’re the next step in a continuing trend of social fringe cliques. We had greasers, then hippies, then goths, then emo kids, and finally it’s all culminated in hipsters. It’s a natural progression and I’m sure that the next stage of this sociological progression will be even more hated by the mass majority than the last.

 What’s So Bad About Hipsters?

So what makes hipsterism a bad thing? Nothing, in and of itself. The problem is that hipsterism comes with a level of self deception that hides behind a sorely abused word: irony. Admit it, at one point or another you got with a group of friends and decided to go bowling. Not out of any desire to actually go bowling (because bowling is lame, right?) but because you want to go bowling because it would be so ironic. The problem with this is that if you think about it there’s zero irony involved. You’re not making some hilarious inside joke about how lame bowling is. You’re there because you legitimately wanted to go bowling.

What’s the point I’m trying to make in all this? Hipsterism is a defense mechanism created so that you can like whatever it is you like and not have to face the scorn or snobbery of the outside world that would surely look down on you for liking that thing you like. I mean seriously, if you admitted to some of your friends that you legitimately like this song:


you would probably have a hard time not playing the “only because it’s so cheesy!” card. It’s something even my wife does. My wife likes Twilight. A lot. But even she’s at a point where she tells people she likes it because it’s ridiculous. You can’t deny that that is a defense mechanism because, seriously, look how people treat anyone who doesn’t have a burning hatred of Twilight.

And before anyone thinks I’m picking on my wife I’ll throw myself out there too: I love Phil Collins music. Going further than that I love 1980s/early 1990s RnB. Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson, Sade, etc. And it took me a long time to get to a high enough point of not giving a crap what others thought to feel comfortable saying it out loud. I know there are people out there who find some of the stuff I like to be laughably cheesy, and some would even say kitschy. But at the same time there’s a reason nostalgia for that kind of stuff is coming around, and this is where I get into the good side of nostalgia.

Nostalgia Vindicates Art

There’s a reason we believe that good art “stands the test of time.” Because it’s true. But great art of any kind, whether it’s a movie, paintings, music, or anything like that goes through a cycle. First great art will be great art. Then it will become kitsch. And then, finally, it will become great art again. It is guaranteed to happen with every single generation. This is because trends repeat, but they also weed out the good from the bad. When the Matrix came out, how many slow motion, black trench coat, twin pistol, philosophy spewing John Woo movie knock offs came out? Too many to count. But how many of those works do we actually remember? I can only think of two: The Matrix and Equilibrium. But for a little while even those movies were thought of as old hat because we got tired of them. We needed a break from that kind of art.

Flash forward to today and look at what we’ve been through in terms of entertainment trends. We went through this phase of constant shaky-cam action films and now we’re going through a phase of staunch realism. And audiences are already getting tired of it…but I can tell you right now the Bourne movies will be fondly remembered by people who remember seeing them when they first came out. Nostalgia vindicates art that was original. Because through that nostalgia you remember the works that actually stood out in a sea of imitators. Think about how many bands tried to be the Beatles after the Beatles first came out. Now try and name a few. Now try and name a few that were actually good. Not so easy, huh?

 What’s Old is New Again

So if nostalgia isn’t holding new art back, what is it doing? Simple: It’s informing new art. It’s influencing. There’s something that we grab onto emotionally with stuff that’s nostalgia to us. Take my fascination with 80s/90s pop/RnB: I know that in terms of technical prowess music today is better than its ever been. But look at the attitude that today’s music is written in. There is (whether it be an illusion created by marketing or be it legitimate) a cynicism to today’s music. The songs I like, though? There seemed to be a boundless optimism and hope to those songs and to the movies from that era, too. I won’t deny that there was a decided effort for those works to be that way, but that’s the point I’m making.

Nostalgia is influencing our entertainment today because of the feeling that there was something in the entertainment and art that was in our formative years that was more meaningful than what’s currently out there. Consider the fact that the new Evil Dead movie is being reported as having no CGI at all. That’s because the director was tired of the over-use of CGI in horror films. Why do you think martial arts films like The Raid are making a comeback? Because we’re tired of shaky cam. This brings me to the point of why Nostalgia is so important to the artistic process.

It’s Our Artistic Compass

Nostalgia gives us an emotional filter by which we decide what we want out of art. It gives us our artistic flavor palette. It informs the kind of art we wish to create. But most of all it is a tool that undermines how self aware artists have become. You can work and work and work on a piece of art and “try” to make it something completely divorced from your influences. The majority of the time you’ll just end up with work you don’t like. Nostalgia gives us an artistic through-line. It reminds us that our influences make up who we are, as both artists and people. To hide from our influences, from the things we love, is to deny part of ourselves. And I’ve already addressed what happens when you deny that part of yourself early on. There’s so much more that can be said but I think we’ve covered enough. It took me over a thousand words to basically say this: Like what you like because whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, it’s part of you and more importantly it’s part of all of us.

Top 5 Concert Films

Top 5 Concert Films

Movies Music

There’s something about seeing a band or musician play live. There’s an energy that goes into a live performance because often times the performer is trying to live up to the album. Concert films are fantastic because they’re the perfect compromise between being a feature length film and getting the concert experience. They offer a peak behind the curtain you don’t really get with a concert or a music video. Here are our top five favorite concert films.

 

Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense

To me this is one of the king daddies of concert films. This is the most stripped back, bare-bones concert film. There’s no trick lighting. There’s no elaborate production. It’s just Talking Heads playing some of their best songs with an indescribable energy. Seeing David Byrne cut loose on Burning Down the House or his almost preacher-like mannerisms in Once In a Lifetime adds such a spark to this concert flick. You can’t get much better than this because it’s pure musicianship at work.

 

Peter Gabriel – Growing Up Live

Peter Gabriel’s no stranger on this site since Sledgehammer was one of our top five music videos. For his 2003 album Up he did the Growing Up Live Tour and the concert film is nothing short of breathtaking. This concert is a perfect example of not only Gabriel’s showmanship but the way he commands the stage is a sight to behold. It’s not surprising that one of the originators of stage diving would, even in his mid-50s, be performing while rolling around in a Zorb, riding a bicycle, or even walking upside down on a ceiling. But this isn’t about stunts. It’s the way each piece of spectacle goes hand in hand with the song it was designed for. On top of that the way he introduces each song adds a regality to it. But perhaps what I love most about the way he performs is the way he acknowledges the people not only with him on stage but those behind the scenes, showing the crew working to make the amazing performances happen. If you aren’t impressed with the above clip then we can’t do anything for you.

Michael Jackson – This Is It

We were cheated when Michael Jackson died. It’s hard to put This Is It on this list because it’s a film for a concert that never happened. Jackson died before he could give the world what I’m about 95% sure would’ve been one of the best shows of all time. I don’t mean just one of the best concerts, but one of the best shows of all time. I could’ve picked any number of performances to showcase, but I had to use the rehearsal for Human Nature. Jackson put his all into his performances, even with such dialed back songs like Human Nature. There’s no stunts to this rehearsal. No frills. Just a master performer dialing it back and still being captivating. It’s simply incredible to watch him work.

Gorillaz – Demon Days Live

At this point everyone knows who the members of Gorillaz are. We even knew who they were back in the day when they first started. As much as we love 2-D, Russell, Murdoch, and Noodle the veil had to be taken off at some point. It didn’t mean we had to like it. But Demon Days Live made it a little easier on us to accept that they weren’t just cartoon characters. This is one of the simplest but most artful concert films I can think of if for no other reason than it just seemed like a freaking good time.

This Is Spinal Tap

Is it a cop out to use a fake (but not really since they occasionally do perform) band for the last one on this list? Maybe, but it’s a cop out that goes to 11 (and I must now be shot due to being the billionth person to wear out that masterpiece of a joke). There is literally nothing I can say about this flick that hasn’t been said already so I’ll just let the clip speak for itself.