Daft Punk: Random
The French electronic duo Daft Punk have been griping about EDM (electronic dance music) for eight years since the blockbuster sale of their last studio album Human After All.
This is the predominant genre in the pop charts right now—think David Geutta, Swedish House Mafia etc., and Daft Punk, back in the day, were a large part of the success and flowering of EDM.
So to voice their dislike of current EDM, Daft Punk have released a decidedly non-EDM album while playing with less synth and hiring veteran session R&B/disco players like Nile Rogers (Chic), bassist Nathan East (Lionel Richie, Barry White) and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr. (The Temptations, Luther Vandross).
The lead single Get Lucky is right out of a late ’70s imaginary disco soundtrack with rubbery bass and stabbing rhythm guitar while singer Parrell expresses the free wheeling hedonism of that pre-AIDS era. When not playing retro disco, Daft Punk experiment with ’70s-styled Progressive rock—more Pink Floyd than anything resembling EDM.
This will surely come as a surprise to EDM and Daft Punk fans but many are predicting Random Access Memories will still make its debt at the No.1 spot on the mainstream charts this week.
This is also a lengthy 75-minute album with lots off odd tracks—none more so than Giorgio By Moroder where the celebrated disco/electronic producer speaks his biography over a jazz/rock fusion.
The key track here features schlock-meister Paul Williams on Touch that rambles on and on via rock/synth/jazz/disco etc., from a Twilight Zone sci-fi robot-comes-to-life sprawl.
A bit of a chocolate mess but not without fascination.
She & Him: Volume 3 (Merge Records)
She & Him are the duo of actress and singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel and noted Oregon indie rocker M. Ward.
Besides an only so-so Christmas album they released last year, this new CD lives up to its name—Volume 3—as their third studio album.
The reason the duo does not give their albums more characteristic names is because the albums are more or less interchangeable with bright, summery indie pop with a retro groove for the early to mid ’60s—that is, before the so-called hippy dippy 1967 “summer of love” with Woodstock and the Beatles Sgt Pepper psychedelia.
Deschanel is a better than average songwriter but she also has a confident and assertive voice that gives her songs an enduring edge that really draws the listener to her likeable songs.
Vol. 3 is also her first album since the divorce from her husband Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie and some of her songs, such as the buoyant Never Wanted Your Love and the pretty but maudlin Shadow Of Love, seem to address this loss and change.
The best original song, I Could’ve Been Your Girl, has a sweet unforced innocence along with handsome B3 organ and strings but I also love the covers here. Check out the cool takes of Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (Covered by many including Johnny Mathis and Connie Francis) and the lesser known Blondie B-side Sunday Girl that has a nifty up-tempo Peggy Sue rhythm.
All three She & Him albums are worth a listen and this new disc has made its debut at the respectable No. 15 spot on the charts.
Download fans should also check out She & Him’s stunningly beautiful and understated version of The Beatles I Should Have Known Better from the previous album that is a sheer delight.
MS MR: Secondhand Rapture (Creep City/Sony)
She & Him are upstaged for the shortness of a mixed duo’s name by New York’s MS MR—as in miz-mister.
They are vocalist Ms. Lizzy and multi-instrumentalist Mr. Max (they prefer to keep their bio obscure which is fine by me) and it is easy to see why Sony Music Corp. rushed to sign the act given the MS MR style that sorta mashes up authoritative Adele vocals with the sophisticated synth-pop of Florence + The Machine.
Their lead single Hurricane was recently played live on Letterman where band leader Paul Shaffer exclaimed “wonderful, very sophisticated.”
MS MR are also noted for their dark, often foreboding love and relationship songs and hence the album title Secondhand Rapture while their creepy, gory video to Ash Tree Lane is not for the weak stomached.
There is sometimes an alt-gothic bent to these synth heavy songs that verge on Evanescence territory while the more poppy song Salty Sweet with its marimba and harp is a likely hit.
Not a bad start for this debut.