Vinyl Review: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Daft Punk is back! And they brought disco!
But don’t worry, it’s okay, I promise.
I’m going to be honest with both myself and you all reading this: you don’t need to read my opinion of Random Access Memories. By now you’ve probably listened to the album for yourself, and probably even read dozens of other, much more in-depth reviews. And they’re all right: the record is a game changer. It will blow your mind. It re-invents dance music by taking it back to synth-pop, disco and funk all while putting its own spin on all of it. It’s bloody brilliant. You’ve never heard anything like it, but at the same time it wears its influences on it sleeve in the best ways imaginable. Name a praise for the album, it’s accurate.
You should buy this album
But should you buy it on vinyl?
For all the clamor and anticipation surrounding Random Access Memories, Daft Punk sure did take the low-key route for the vinyl. No deluxe edition, no colored vinyl, no special box set, it’s just a regular 2LP release in a nice, standard gatefold sleeve.
The simple cover art fits the vinyl format well. If you’re the kind of person who frames vinyl or puts it out on display, this will be a good one for that. Robots always look cool. Although if you do that, keep in mind you’ll have a hard time seeing the awesome gatefold image, a picture of the world’s coolest keyboard.
Inside the sleeve you’ll find a booklet, and it’s pretty bare bones as well, with just basic linear notes listing who worked on the record (spoiler: it was a lot) and the song lyrics. The only images inside the book are some faux-schematics of the Daft Punk helmets. The entire presentation is minimal and sparse, but it’s also sleek and an accurate reproduction of albums from the era that Daft Punk is drawing its inspiration from. Nothing to complain about.
One nice touch is that the retro vibe continues onto the records themselves, with each LP featuring the classic red Columbia Records label. It’s probably not something that 90% of the people who buy it will notice, but for those of us who collect old records, it’s pretty cool to see.
The records themselves are 180g black vinyl, and while they have a nice weight to them and don’t feel flimsy, my copies had more than their share of pops and crackles. Most of the time it’s not very noticeable, but on a few occasions the surface noise got so loud that it was distracting. The very end of the side two closer “Lose Yourself To Dance” is so noisy that the album actually sounded distorted, and the opening track to side three, “Touch,” had some persistent pops that lasted for the first full minute of the track.
It’s kind of a drag, but thankfully a download code is included. And not only should Sony/Columbia be commended for that, but they also deserve credit for how it’s done. No login is required, no need to give an email, all you need to do is visit a URL, punch in your passcode and viola, you get a zip of the files as high-quality 320 kpbs MP3s. Also, the files are properly labeled and tagged. Sure that may sound like slight praise, but do you have any idea as to how many artists fuck that up? It’s crazy.
Since the album does come with MP3s, I thought I would compare those files to a vinyl rip. Let’s take a look:
Yeah, the MP3 version is louder than the vinyl. But I’m going to be honest, I couldn’t hear any compression or distortion, and the album never sounds “exhausting,” like an album that is too loud often does. In some instances, it actually sounds better than the vinyl, since LPs can’t handle hi-hats and other similar sounds as well as the digital medium can, and this album is full of those. I think “Get Lucky” sounds better on MP3, the accented drums serve the song well. Other times though, I found the vinyl version preferable. “Giorgio by Moroder” concludes with a massive drum breakdown, but I feel the subdued mix of the drums on the vinyl version is be easier on the ears, and it also allows the amazing bass work to be pushed up to the foreground where I think it belongs. Both the digital and LP versions have their pros and cons, but neither are bad or worth fretting over. They’re fine.
The overall package for this release is very nice, and properly invokes the memories and style that Daft Punk was no doubt going for. The surface noise problems are a bit of a drag, but even those aren’t enough for me to dismiss this one. If you’re a fan of the duo, then you should probably grab this LP, even it is a bit pricier. If nothing else, that cover art makes for a great display piece.