Daft Punk

2013 is the year of album release hype

2013 has been the year of album hype, and the hype is not limited to one genre. Daft Punk, Kanye West and Arcade Fire have all had over-zealous campaigns accompanying their releases this year.

Daft Punk first unleashed the news of its new album publically with a 15 second clip that aired during SNL, which was quickly spread online. At first, people thought the stranger robots were saying “mexican monkey,” but anticipation for the group’s first true album in years caught on quickly. A slightly longer clip was shown at Coachella, and was talked about more than any of the actual festival performances. It was at Coachella that the world heard the first murmurs of “Get Lucky,” which would soon be the song of the summer for teenagers and young adults everywhere. The release of collaborators and production techniques used on the album only enhanced anticipation, leading to the duo’s most successful album ever.

Arcade Fire had a more guerrilla-roots campaign its its rollout, consisting mostly of cryptic symbols marked on streets. The ominous words “Reflektor” originally didn’t hold any relation to Arcade Fire, but the band revealed that it would be the title of its next album through a reply on Twitter. An official Instagram account documented the symbols, which then began featuring the date "9/9/9." On Sept. 9 at 9 p.m., Arcade Fire officially released a video for its single “Reflektor,” and expectations grew. By the time the album was finally released, anticipation was higher than for any album in the band’s history.

Perhaps the most subversive and interesting album rollout of 2013 was Kanye West’s Yeezus. It began with his tweet “JUNE EIGHTEEN,” which led to a map on his website that targeted spots around the world. Fans and bystanders at the locations were then graced with a projection of Kanye’s face rapping “New Slaves” — including one spot on the UT campus. He then put the album art — which is blank — on his website, only adding to the enigma that is Yeezus. Kanye consciously decided not to put a single out for the radio or do any major promotion for the album, instead relying on his individual vision to carry the anticipation for it. More popular and well known than Daft Punk or Arcade Fire, West used his far-reach to make an event and album that will be discussed for many years to come.

This pattern of pre-release hype and elaborate album rollouts could soon become the norm for all artists desiring credible exposure in the future. Moving away from traditional ways of promoting an album … Could this be the beginning of a new era? 

Review

Electronic music is often the underdog.

Many see it as unoriginal or stagnant considering that most of it derives from computerized bits and samples from artists that range from rock, hip-hop and techno. It is challenging to find an electronic group that seamlessly combines the electronic formula (busy synths, kicking bass drum and distorted vocals) with a refreshing approach. This is the case with Justice’s latest album, Audio, Video, Disco.

Audio, Video, Disco does not conform to the dubstep direction that has recently taken over dance music. Rather, it nostalgically looks back at dance godfathers Daft Punk and present-day dance punkers MSTRKRFT and Death From Above 1979 to create an album that has one goal — to keep things funky and simple.

Opener “Horsepower” foreshadows just how lively the album is with its menacing, fuzzy synths and dance club drums. The intro begins like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” with its eerie bass drops, followed by arena rock synth guitar in the bridge that produces an impeccable harmony between the old and new school.

“Canon” and its video game synths reverberate all over the place, appearing and disappearing rapidly among hi-hat cymbals and distorted bass. “On’n’on” sounds like the result of a jam session between Aerosmith and Daft Punk: Guest vocalist Morgan Phalen does his best Steven Tyler impression over ’70s rock drums and throbbing bass. “Parade” could easily replace the Death Star theme song with its blistering, spacey bass, “We Will Rock You” foot stomps and hand claps and laser-like synths.

Unfortunately, this album’s simpleness is also its downfall. Justice’s debut album Cross was great because each song kept the momentum up and there was an underlying sexiness and swagger to each track. Audio, Video, Disco does not have that. You can pick and choose the good from the bad, and after “Parade,” the album becomes extremely repetitive. It begins to rely on the same disco rock formula and if you are not paying attention, you would assume you have been listening to one continuous song the whole time. If Justice is going to stick to this road and expect results, they need to structure their songs like Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock.” Keep the synths and drums the focal point and the heavy rock guitars at a minimum.

Justice’s return does not satisfy in the ways of its predecessor. Four years in the making, Audio, Video, Disco is creative in its approach, but it moves too far away from what made Justice one of a handful of bright flickers of hope for electronic music. The album has great ideas, but when those ideas are regurgitated for each song, you will find yourself looking for refuge in the more familiar arms of Cross.

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: Justice adds twist to old formula

Photo Courtesy of Digitalism

Forrest Gump by digitalism_official

 

While Daft Punk satisfies itself with making morose, barely living soundtracks for mediocre sequels, a crop of groups sprouting up has been trying but never quite taking Daft Punk’s crown (or helmet, really) of electronic-pop. The latest attempt is I Love You, Dude, the sophomore album from German dance punk group Digitalism.

Whereas their previous album, Idealism, leaned more on the punk than dance, I Love You, Dude has its sights set straight on the crossover appeal of Daft Punk’s “Digital Love.” In “2 Hearts,” the duo uses ethereal synths on a melody reminiscent of Crystal Castles “Not In Love.” As for the lyrics, they are pure hipster love (“These two hearts won’t make it last/It’s like you are hopelessly in love/But I will watch you”). It’s an infectious, lightweight track.

Co-written by Julian Casablancas, “Forrest Gump” does not reach the same success. Casablancas brings his signature apathetic attitude to the lyrics with a chorus that goes “And so you run/and then you run.” Deep, man. The shredding guitars bathed in synths do the songs no favor either, making “Forrest Gump” sound like a poorly executed remix of a Strokes song.

The parts of the album that don’t strive to be pop hits fare much better in consistency. But that’s more because the tracks retread into familiar ground. “Antibiotoics” slinks by with an unrelenting beat and features those bits of low voices saying nonsensical yet ominous things. It’s ready-made for any late night rave, but verges on sounding cliché. That’s the biggest problem for the I Love You, Dude: none of it differentiates Digitalism from Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers or even Justice for that matter.

Like a good and adequate pop singer or group, Digitalism can make servicable songs that catch your ear for a little bit. However, by focusing on their predecessors and striving for relative pop success, they end up sounding as dated as an analog recording.