Daft Punk may be over, but their music lives on. Hearing the news of their break up wasn’t a shocking, terrible surprise. They hadn’t toured or put out any music since 2013, only working on production for a few things (most of which were very good – go back and listen to that 2017 Charlotte Gainsbourg album again if you haven’t). After every festival lineup since 2013 failed to have them as the headliner, the thought of them never playing another show felt more and more like a reality. Maybe they were planning something in 2020, it got derailed, and rather than put it off they just said “eh, it’s not worth it”. At least at this point a reunion show series will pull them in massive bank.
With me and Daft Punk, there was a period of time when they were my “favorite artist” from mid-2011 to probably mid-2013 (the loss of their fav status had nothing to do with the release of Random Access Memories, it had everything to do with listening to Boards of Canada every day for a few months). RAM was even my #1 album of 2013. Eventually I drifted away from that record, with it not even making my Top 200 Albums of the 2010s list. I would still lose myself in Homework, Discovery and Alive 2007, the albums that I essentially hooked into my veins and would blast out of my car while still living in Michigan, worrying my friends riding in the backseat. They left a massive imprint on my taste, essentially getting me into house music and techno before I really knew what they were. Heck, Discovery‘s 20th anniversary was just a few days ago. I thought I’d collect my 10 favorite Daft Punk tunes and write a bit about them. I hope people power past the memes and embrace the fact that the duo made some purely joyous, inventive, exciting and euphoric music during their run. Thanks Daft Punk!
Also – they made an entire anime movie to Discovery. Teenage Warm V. thanks you for your service.
1. “Face To Face” [Discovery, 2001]
Ok obviously this isn’t the pick that other people would have had as the #1 Daft Punk song, but “Face To Face” has been my favorite song of theirs for 10 years now and I continue to stand by it. I love the glitchiness of the instrumental, with funk guitars, keyboards and vocal samples getting chopped up with ease, along with Todd Edwards understated vocal delivery tying everything together. It’s not the most mind-blowing track, but I’d listen to this song over and over in the summer I was obsessed with Daft Punk + early college that followed. Just love those chopped up samples and the fact that it’s a later-album cut. Totally killer. What can I say?
2. “Human / Together / One More Time / Music Sounds Better With You” [Alive 2007]
Maybe it’s cheating including live versions of songs off Alive 2007, but honestly they take a whole new life when medlied together. This is a bonus track on the album and absolutely sounds like the most epic encore closer the band could put together. It puts together some of their biggest tracks in “Human After All” and “One More Time”, then combines them with an obscure early cut “Together” and their track as Stardust (a trio feat. Daft Punk & French DJ Alan Braxe), “Music Sounds Better With You”. There’s even a bit of “Aerodynamic” in there. A true gumbo, a goulash, a body-warming stew. The groove of “Together” is just absurd and when they tease in the vocal lines of “One More Time” you can hear the crowd explode over the din of the band. I wish they had used the vocal line from “Music” in this live version, but hearing the instrumental spliced with the euphoric chorus of “One More Time” is like being brought up to a whole new pleasure threshold you didn’t know you had. At some points it sounds a bit cluttered, but at the end of the day it’s an insane, mind-blowing closer that was made to have audiences leaving the venue wobbly-kneed and starry-eyed. I think it succeeds in that aspect beautifully.
3. “Da Funk” [Homework, 1996]
Now we’re into the true hits. It was a toss up for me between “Da Funk” and “One More Time” here, but “Da Funk” has steadily grown on me as I’ve gotten older, prooobably surpassing “One More Time”. But in all actuality, these numbers don’t matter. Let’s just forget about the numbers. “Da Funk” is a super simple, super satisfying song whose disparate pieces fuse into one slick yet chunky groover that has absolutely stood the test of time. From the crunchy lead synth line, to the eventual acid breakdown, to the steady beat & bass, this track just works. It works. It feels great and it has a killer music video that makes me think how I live in NYC now a lot.
4. “One More Time” [Discovery, 2001]
Alright alright, now it’s THE hit time. If you know me at all in person, I’ve likely talked about how nostalgic I am about the aesthetic of music played at the local bowling alley and laser tag place of my childhood town. I vividly remember hearing “One More Time” at the bowling alley multiple times when I was in 4th grade or so, thinking “this is the best song I’ve ever heard” and then promptly forgetting about it because I’m a little piece of shit kid that wants to play Zelda again. I’m pretty sure the laser tag place (Zap Zone, to be specific) played Daft Punk as well, or at least other techno / acid / trance that was popular with music freaks at the time. In my fantasy, the burnt out teens that worked at Zap Zone DJ’d the laser tag matches, playing trance mp3s they downloaded from Napster or Limewire and burned onto CDs. Just pure pleasure baked into every crevice of sound on this track. I’m guessing most people reading this have heard this song. It’s joy encapsulated. Let me feel good, universe. Let me live in this track’s universe for a minute.
5. “Burnin'” [Homework, 1996]
This song makes me feel like I just got an invincibility power up in a video game. My special meter is glowing rainbow and I’m ready to unleash my super mega combo. The high-pitched siren-like synth part just feels like it’s powering you up, while other electronic elements of the track slowly fade up into the mix, further enhancing this feeling of raising the intensity level. Once it finally unleashes into a groovin bass line and scattering percussion, you know you’re really cruising now. I have this on my running playlist and if it hits me on shuffle at a good time, it literally feels like my body is glowing, the music is pumping through my veins and I can run at top speed through Final Fight-like waves of enemies, brick walls, giant pits, whatever. I’m powered up, baby. I’m burnin’.
6. “Revolution 909” [Homework, 1996]
I initially only listened to Homework via “Da Funk”, a song that I only listened to because Pitchfork said it was good in their Best Songs of the 90s list published in 2010 or so. Once I finally returned to Homework and found “Revolution 909” early in the tracklist, my mind was blown. This was likely my first encounter with “house” like this. It’s punchy, vibrant, dynamic and infectious – a perfect early-album cut to get this legendary record off the ground.
7. “Too Long” [Discovery, 2001]
I’m a sucker for a great closing track and “Too Long” is the best closer in Daft Punk’s discography. Some could say this song is… too long… but man, the groove it establishes and rides upon for the last half of the track is something magical. I remember the first time I really sat down and listened to this track I was gobsmacked. Like how is this so good and how lucky did we get that it’s going on for this long? It’s a perfect, climactic culmination for a perfect record, encapsulating the drama and euphoria of Discovery.
8. “Around The World / Harder Better Faster Stronger” [Alive 2007]
Maybe I’m just too young, but sometimes “Around The World” is a bit too long for me. Hearing it interwoven with “Harder Better Faster Stronger” a song I would occasionally skip on listens of Discovery, is just a masterpiece. Both tracks on their own are like mechanical processes, constantly churning with well-oiled gears. Combine these two machines together, letting their individual cogs sync up with one another and watching it continue to each operate in perfect tandem is another reason why Alive 2007 is an essential listening experience. There are few other songs on the comp that work like as well as this one. And even the ones that are more seamless than this are technically built with “lesser” songs. These are two bonafide gems in the bands discography. I also wanna give credit to “Steam Machine” here, which carries over from the track before and pretty much all the cuts on Human After All sound amazing on this record. This track has also got some great audience ambiance in it as well, with the crowd lighting up once the bass of “Around The World” comes in, to the “ohh!!” to start the track while “Steam Machine” is going, to the crowd shouting along to “Harder”. It’s a magical feeling.
9. “Aerodynamic” [Discovery, 2001]
I remember I heard this song for the first time in some Newgrounds video in probably 2003 or 2004. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. I was also a super nerdy video game boy that was obsessed with superficial Japanese culture as seen in video game magazines and like, Naruto. It was great to finally connect the dots once I sat down and listened to Discovery in 2011. Definitely sounds like something that would exist in a Timesplitters game, which is definitely in my best interest. Full of guitar nerdery, approaching-Asian instrumentation and dynamism between the slower and faster parts, this track has still got it in my book.
10. “Doin’ It Right” [Random Access Memories, 2013]
Now I know what you’re about to say. There are so many more iconic tracks that are better than “Doin’ It Right”. You’re honestly pretty correct about that, but part of me felt bad about not including any RAM tracks in the top 10, but I also wanted to shout out the fact that Panda Bear collaborated with Daft Punk. Does that mean Panda Bear has a Grammy? In 2013 that was the coolest thing to me. I had this song as my alarm for most of the summer. It’s by far my most-listened song on RAM and I just love hearing Panda’s voice in the Daft Punk electronic soundscape. The album is full of superstars… and Panda Bear. Let’s just appreciate this.
MORE ESSENTIAL DAFT PUNK TRACKS:
Listen to all these tracks on my Spotify playlist: HERE.
- “Alive” [Homework]
- “Around The World” [Homework]
- “Burnin’ / Too Long” [Alive 2007]
- “Crescendolls” [Discovery]
- “Digital Love” [Discovery]
- “Get Lucky” [Random Access Memories]
- “Human After All” [Human After All]
- “Indo Silver Club” [Homework]
- “Instant Crush” [Random Access Memories]
- “One More Time / Aerodynamic” [Alive 2007]
- “Phoenix” [Homework]
- “Robot Rock” [Human After All]
- “Television Rules The Nation / Crescendolls” [Alive 2007]
- “Too Long / Steam Machine” [Alive 2007]
- “Veridis Quo” [Discovery]
- “Voyager” [Discovery]