Daft Punk
Photo by David Black (c) Daft Life Ltd.

Does Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories Hold Up 10 Years Later?

In this episode of the Pitchfork Review podcast, our critics look back on the French robots’ audacious final album.

Our weekly podcast includes in-depth analysis of the music we find extraordinary, exciting, and just plain terrible, along with interviews with some of our favorite artists. This week, Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel and Reviews Director Jeremy D. Larson talk to Features Editor Ryan Dombal about Daft Punk’s Grammy-winning, chart-topping 2013 album Random Access Memories, which was recently reissued. They revisit Pitchfork’s Daft Punk Cover Story from that time and ask the question: Considering the duo’s 2021 breakup, how does the album sound as a final statement? And stay tuned for an interview with RAM collaborator Todd Edwards about the making of album highlight “Fragments of Time” at the end of the episode.

Listen to this week’s episode below, and follow The Pitchfork Review here. You can also check out an excerpt of the podcast’s transcript below. 

Puja Patel: Does this album hit the same way it did 10 years ago for you? 

Jeremy D. Larson: I was so surprised by this album when it came out. When I listened to it, I almost had to file it away for later because it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of momentum to it. In fact, I would say that is one of the things that has aged the worst about it—it takes a very long time for this record to get going. And then what it does, it sort of floats away. But listening to it now feels different because you know it’s their final album. Is this a good finale for Daft Punk? Is this something that felt inevitable but surprising? Kind of. I like it as a capper, because it felt like they reached a logical endpoint. 

I wish I could have seen this live, though, because dance music is about bringing people together in the same space. Does this do what they wanted to do in that live space? That’s what I still have yet to answer for myself listening to this record now. And that’s where this feels a little incomplete. But as part of their discography, I’m happy with this as the finale. 

Ryan Dombal: I would say it hasn’t held up amazingly well, especially the beginning of the album, which is just so slow. But the highs are incredibly high. As a whole album of songs, though, I’ll take Discovery or Homework or their live album from 2007 over this one any day of the week. 

Listening now, the feeling that I get the most—and maybe this is because I now know that they broke up—is that it’s almost like a eulogy for “real” music. It’s almost like they knew they might get a No. 1 album and a Grammy, but they also knew they were not going to change the entire course of music away from computers, no matter how hard they tried. The tone of so many songs is pretty nostalgic, and something like “Touch” is very sad. Like the line, “I remember touch”—it’s like they’re acknowledging such tangibility is not coming back. It is almost like one last gasp before the machines really take over. And everything that’s happening now, especially with AI, only exacerbates that feeling for me.