Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

In the aftermath of the electronica duo's breakup, let's look at their last, probably greatest work. There's something inexcusably pretentious about liner notes that prominently state "Starring (in alphabetical order)" and not all of those guests are the album's high points (Paul Williams' "Touch" disappointingly in particular), and the obvious pop single moments are fatally obvious pop singles ("Lose Yourself to Dance" and the Pharrell Williams hit "Get Lucky" are cute but ultimately disposable). But the shift to richer orchestration and a more expansive style really delivers, with real meaningfulness here in a genre generally fixated on throwaway beats. I have never heard a more heartfelt, human vocal out of a vocoder than "Within," I enjoyed the U2 feel of "Instant Crush," "Fragments of Time" adds wistful nostalgia without being cloying, and while "Beyond"'s orchestral lead-in is a trifle overwrought it's still thrilling. However, while there are many such quality instrumental interludes, the album's three official instrumentals are its finest moments and indisputably the best tracks they've ever done: "Motherboard" and the tingly wonderous glow of first "Contact" deliver a solid punch, though it's their interview with disco deity Giorgio Moroder that hits it out of the park, rendering his insightful, introspective self-summation of his career and life over a wonderfully realized throwback beat in "Giorgio by Moroder." This album may be almost eight years old now but it is so suffused with atmosphere it will forever be timeless. Perhaps they took Fatboy Slim's advice: if this is the greatest, why try harder? The deluxe edition adds "Horizon," a fourth prog-styled instrumental as strong as the three on the main album and well worth picking up. (Content: mild adult themes on "Get Lucky.")