BY FRED MILLS
This is a dazzling album, steeped in soul and brimming with an uncommon musicality, all rhythmic urgency and compelling melodies and anthemic choruses. Traditional disco tropes abound, from vocoder-drenched vocals to handclaps-as-percussion to sleeky-silky fretboard flourishes (and yes, that is Nile Fucking Rodgers playing guitar throughout the album—speaking of tradition). But there’s no winking irony at play. Listen to, say, the exuberantly funky “Get Lucky,” featuring guest vocalist Pharrell Williams (Neptunes) giving the performance of his life as Rodgers and Paul Jackson Jr. weave an insistent bed of riffage beneath him; or the dreamy, atmospheric soul of “The Game of Love” that concludes with a heartbreaking observation from the lonely vocoderist, “You decided to walk away… me, I just wanted you to stay.” It’s emotionally profound, with a subtle elegance, and it’s sonically serendipitous, too, in the way that the songs’ hooks remain with you long after the record has spun.
You want emotionally profound? In addition to Williams, several other guest singers drop in, among them Julian Casablancas and Panda Bear. It’s a Williams from another era, however, elfin songwriter (and to some, ‘70s cheesemaster) Paul Williams, who submits the record’s lump-in-throat moment by way of “Touch,” an extended ode to the tactile sense and how it help makes us human. His slightly damaged croon, abetted by Daft Punk’s own vocoder vocals and an honest-to-god 14-person choir, provides the sonic and psychic counterpoint to the presumed “soullessness” of the group’s robotic nature—and by extension, totally undercuts all those old anti-disco arguments, that the music was mechanized and lacking in soul.
And my god, Daft Punk actually corralled disco godfather Giorgio Moroder to contribute to the nine-minute track bearing his name, in which he expounds upon his inspirations both then and now, which can be boiled down to: making and enjoying music is about freeing your mind.
In the current cultural climate, we need more of this. Album Of The Year, y’all.
DOWNLOAD: “Get Lucky,” “Give Life Back to Music,” “Touch”