When you're listening to Daft Punk, you can't really go wrong. Whether it's their work from 1997 or 2013, Daft Punk has consistently put out some of the best house music to date, yet their incredible influences and sounds range far beyond just house and electronic music. That being said, some of Daft Punk's work is better than others. And I'm here to set the record straight for their 5 albums (excluding live and remix albums).
5. Tron: Legacy
I love what Daft Punk tries to do here, I really do. Daft Punk (made up of French artists Guy–Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter) captures the electronic–noir theme of the Tron: Legacy movie very well in this album, and I would argue they were likely the best possible fit for a movie that aimed to be as visually sleek and computerized as Tron: Legacy. But at the end of the day, the sound of this album is simply a huge departure from Daft Punk’s signature frantic–yet–groovy sound that came off as less like music and more like the combination of electronic sounds made to sound like music. I understand it’s a movie soundtrack, so to expect a signature Daft Punk performance is simply irrational. But Tron: Legacy is likely what people who claim they “don’t like electronic music” picture when they think of electronica and house—a rhythmic, but non–musical, collection of glitchy sounds.
4. Human After All
Human After All suffers from some of the same issues as Tron: Legacy, but to a much lesser extent. This is the worst non–soundtrack album Daft Punk has put out, and it will likely be better than 90% of EDM available on Spotify in the next year. Human After All is an exploration of technologic and comparatively roboticist themes, but Daft Punk lets the robotic sounds overtake the passion of their typical music. Part of Daft Punk greatness is that they don’t sacrifice the melody, fervor, and intensity of their music even when they’re emphasizing an inhuman, electronic sound. But in Human After All, it feels like Daft Punk struggles to find that balance more often than not. Some glaring exceptions are “Robot Rock,” featuring a vigorous back–and–forth of a guitar and robotic voice repeating “Robot Rock,” and “Technologic,” another fast–paced stand out.
The one that started it all still stands up to the test of time over 20 years later. “Around the World” will never not be a great song, and it offers an excellent introduction into the brilliantly auto–tuned world of Daft Punk. At the same time, “Rollin’ and Scratchin’” is an example of the ingenuity of the (young) French duo early in their careers, as the inspiration from the song itself came from the noise of unplugging a turntable. Legend has it that the “scratching” noise in the song itself came from unplugging a cable, but in , they were able to replicate the sound using a Roland Juno–106 and MT–2 Distortion Panel. Regardless of the myths of some particular songs on Homework, the album is both a strong work of electronic music in of itself and a strong indicator of the greatness of Daft Punk that had yet to come.
2. Random Access Memories
If a random artist were to put out an album like Random Access Memories, chances are, it would indisputably be the best possible musical work in their discography. So don’t be fooled—just because Random Access Memories (a nod to RAM, the Random Access Memory of computer data storage) is at the number two spot doesn’t mean that it is undeserving of heaps of praise. My personal favorite Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories is chock full of smooth hits from top to bottom. “Give Life Back to Music” is a rolling song that strikes that balance between funk and electronic in a whole new way compared to their earlier albums. In a clear nod to the eras of disco and funk that came before them, Daft Punk crafted a polished tribute to their inspirations in a way that only they could. “Lose Yourself to Dance,” featuring Pharrell, is quite easily one of the grooviest songs of the 2010s—a beckoning, if not a command, for the listener to engage with their music in a way that Daft Punk fans hadn’t experienced in years (this 2013 album came out 3 years after Tron: Legacy and 8 years after Human After All). Pharrell lends himself as the vocalist yet again on “Get Lucky,” and if you haven’t found yourself getting up, singing, and dancing with yourself to “we’re up all night to get lucky” on at least multiple occasions, you’re probably as soulless and robotic as Daft Punk’s notorious . And although the two songs with Pharrell features are easily the most popular, many of Random Access Memories’ other songs should not be overlooked. “Doin’ It Right” and “Giorgio by Moroder” are both excellent, funky tracks that warrant a listen, if you haven’t treated yourself to those songs already.
Discovery isn't one of those albums that builds itself up as you work your way down the track list—it starts off unapologetically firing on all cylinders. The easily recognizable, auto–tuned, opening track “One More Time” is a dance jam that has inspired countless future dance artists. It set the standard for Discovery, a standard of excellence in craft that Daft Punk never really deviates from through the whole album. The following song, “Aerodynamic” is more of the same. The synthesizer–heavy electronic sound featuring a “guitar solo” is flawlessly crafted, yet also raw, and glittery. In Discovery, Daft Punk somehow manages to walk the line between polished and primitive so well that it feels like this album could have required either 10 years or 10 days to make. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” yet another famously brilliant song of the album, essentially repeats different cuts of the same 25 words in a way that makes each new assembly of “Work it harder, Make It Better, Do it faster, Makes us stronger/More than ever, Hour after, Our work is, Never Over” feel like a rollercoaster ride. “Something About Us,” an unusually sensual song for the album, manages to be both atypical enough to make the song stand out but not to the point where it is a detriment to Discovery’s cohesiveness. Collectively, the songs of Discovery each contribute to the sound of the album as a polished and unrelenting collection of songs that will go down as a classic—not just in electronic music, but in the greater catalogue of modern music as a whole.