Daft Punk at O2 Wireless Festival in 2007.
(Fabio Venni/Wikimedia Commons)
It’s a daffy year when America surrenders its pop chart to the French.
The French haven’t had a No. 1 hit single on the American pop charts since 1963. Even then it was an unlikely one-hit wonder — Jeanine Deckers, The Singing Nun, with “Dominique” — that tickled our collective auditory ear.
The Beatles soon put an end to our puppy love affair with the songs of a French nun, and everything was just hunky dory in the home of the brave. It would take another half a century before we would venture to stick our big toe of an ear into the vast vineyard of an aural wasteland of jibber-jabber that the French insist is a national language.
Sure we drink their wine, bite into their bonbons and even deeply inhale their froufrou cologne. But we absolutely draw the line at letting the auditory army of French foreigners find a safe, snug harbor in our eclectic ears. And we have steadfastly protected that fort of deafening defiance pretty damn well.
But that all changed this year when two masked marvels, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, known as Daft Punk, cancanned and sashayed their way into our Top 20 music charts with the irresistible “Get Lucky” single from their “Random Access Memories” album.
Yep, this is the year that we Americans surrendered to the French fashion of retro DISCO!
We waved the white flag and then tailored it into a new bleached white suit and struck up our best John Travolta pose from “Saturday Night Fever.” We ate it up with spoon, forgetting that we had already chewed and spit out that pablum more than 30 years ago.
But fashion styles tend to repeat, as do musical trends. Disco had more to do with beats per measure than poetic prose or memorable melodies.
Daft Punk has launched disco into an interstellar orbit with “Random Access Memories.” These two French masked music marauders raided and synthesized the lost audio ark of everything from actual sound bites of the Apollo space mission in their “Contact” to borrowing and weaving interlude hooks from Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run” track onto their own “Fragments of Time.”
As Bob Dylan sang, “Steal a little and they put you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you king!”
Dip your big toe in to the warm wavelength of Daft Punk so that you will recognize these marvelous, mysterious, musical men with the images of The Bee Gees on the soon-to-be-resurfaced Mount Rushmore.
Masked Music Marauders
- Daft Punk, “Random Access Memories,” Columbia.
- Mark Knopfler, “Privateering,” Verve Music Group — The Sultan of Swing swats another home run with these seemingly seafaring saga songs. Knopfler successfully sails the straits of privateering and pirating with six silver strings and a Strat.
- Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, “Old Yellow Moon,” Nonesuch — The sweetheart of country rock reunites with her first songwriter and Hot Band member, Rodney Crowell, for a much-more-than-memorable homecoming recording that will not leave your home collection or memory easily.
- Paul McCartney, “New,” Hear Music — This is not Paul McCartney’s best album, but his 24th solo album is easily the best one that he has released in the last 24 years!
- Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, “Love Has Come For You,” Rounder Records — I would say that this talented duo is the new Steve & Edie of this century, but Martin only sings on one song. Keeping in mind that Brickell is married to Paul Simon, it would be easy to say that Steve Martin is the steadfast, loyal Art Garfunkel in this collaboration. But Martin really out-arts Artie by co-writing all of the songs and playing supple supporting banjo backup on all the tracks. Brickell’s beautifully bright voice sells these songs as easily and effortlessly as offering free chocolate and roses on Valentine’s Day.
- Della Mae, “This World Oft Can Be,” Rounder Records — Five Bluegrass babes from Boston write, play and sing beautiful bluegrass like they were first cousins to Bill Monroe and The Osborne Brothers.
- Kacey Musgraves, “Same Trailer Different Park,” Mercury Records — Singer and songwriter Kacey Musgraves has become America’s Poet Laureate of the Trailer Park Scene with her fourth album. The 25-year-old Kacey wrote or co-wrote songs for Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson and Deana Carter before this album was released. Musgrave won her first Grammy Award earlier this year. Her trailer isn’t half vacant or permanently parked yet!
- John Fogerty, “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” Vanguard — John Fogerty doesn’t need The Foo Fighters, Bob Seger, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, My Morning Jacket, Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, Kid Rock, Jennifer Hudson and Allen Toussaint to sell this album. Fogerty wrote the first chapter of the Americana Songbook with this classic selection of his signature songs. The other artists are just his devoted disciples preaching the good ole gospel of Father Creedence.
- Buddy Guy, “Rhythm & Blues,” RCA Records — Eighty minutes of pure proof that Buddy was the soul and inspiration of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Stevie Ray Vaughan. They all said it and this double album not only backs them up, it reminds you why Buddy Guy is still important to the blues and rock scene today.
- Neil Young, “Live At The Cellar Door,” Reprise Records — Recorded 43 years ago when Neil Young really was young. The 25-year-old Young slips comfortably in to a stellar set at the Cellar Door with his acoustic guitar and piano renditions of the best of his first three solo albums. He even reaches back to his Buffalo Springfield days with some surprising explanations of what inspired the songs.
Best New Artist
CD of 2013
Alma Deutscher, “The Music of Alma Deutscher,” Flara Records — Eight-year-old violinist and composer Alma Deutscher had me with just her self-portrait album cover.