Music

We Ranked Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’ Track By Track 15 Years Later

This week marks the 15th anniversary of one of simply the most monumental dance music albums ever. Daft Punk’s Discovery, which hit American shores on March 13, 2001 (dropping a few weeks earlier in Europe), was the critical peak of the most important electronic act of the 21st century.

The album’s mix of French House, R&B, and disco makes it absolute required listening for anyone who cares to know about dance music, and the expert sequencing makes it a stone-cold classic front-to-back that is meant to be listened to as a whole. Still, for those of you who have not time listen to albums anymore, some tracks are more classic (classic-er) than others. So, in honor of Discovery crossing this milestone, we decided to rank all 14 of its tracks from (relatively) worst to best.

Let’s get to it.

14. Nightvision

This song is meant as a cool-down, sandwiched as it is between the massive chant-alongs of “Crescendolls” and “Superheroes.” Unfortunately, the track doesn’t do much to distinguish itself, its mellow piano chords drifting aimlessly for a minute and a half. This more mellow cut would be perfect for a “Continue?” screen on a 16-bit video game console, but in the context of the non-stop bangers on Discovery, it’s hard to measure up.

13. Short Circuit

“Short Circuit” brings up the back of the pack through no fault of its own. In a vacuum, it’s a wonderful mix of skronky robot bass and breakbeats. As a Prince mega-fan, I have to admit the decaying sounds at the end of the track that are Daft Punk’s take on “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” are strangely beautiful. But artists as sample-dependent as Daft Punk should know that their albums aren’t released in a vacuum and this b-boy sound has been done better by many other artists.

12. Voyager

A track that’s largely forgettable because the artists who made it had already done it one better. “Around the World” came out half a decade before this track and still annihilates it in a head-to-head competition. It contains an interpolation of Oliver Cheatham’s 1983 cut “Get Down Saturday Night” which is infinitely more fun in its original form.

11. Too Long

A bugged out, Moby-ian odyssey that closes the album with some rare, unfiltered vocals. While it’s a great track, it suffers from the problems hinted to in its own title. I’d gladly sacrifice seven of the tracks ten minutes for longer stays in “Aerodynamic” or “High Life.”

10. Superheroes

An unf*ckwithable classic whose placement here only stands to show how great the rest of the album is.

9. Veridis Quo

Now, this is how you make sad video game music. “Veridis Quo” is a finger-wag in the face of “Nightvision,” a melancholy and chiptune-y track that still manages to convey a constant sense of movement. It would be perfect nestled in a killer side-scroller soundtracks of old like Streets of Rage.

8. High Life

Who knew that a gibberish vocal sample — intentionally snipped to be completely devoid of meaning — could be so damn compelling? Without anything to anchor the vocal to, it becomes just another instrument in service to the song, a noise pealing up toward the heavens only to be interrupted by an angelic and spaced out organ sound.

7. Harder Better Faster Stronger

This single is revered for what it helped create, not necessarily for the strength of the original song. It launched massive viral videos and was the core of a huge hit for Kanye West. The re-jiggering of the track by Yeezy also indirectly led to a world where Daft Punk are working with Pharrell, selling tons of albums and winning Grammys. The duo definitely owe this song for their late-career resurgence, but in the context of the magnificent Discovery, it’s just not enough to be worthy of a slot in the top half of this list.

6. Crescendolls

In a cooler world, Gregorian party tunes would have taken off before mashups did. But we have to deal with the world we’re given, where this spiritual descendant to Basement Jaxx’s “Red Alert” and its ’80s-ed up cousin “Superheroes” are all we get.

5. Face to Face

So what if it’s a bit corny and could come off an unreleased Ronnie album? Anyone who doesn’t smile at the positive vibes and excellent, distorted repetition of “Face to Face” now is a robot (and not the good, house-music making kind).

4. Aerodynamic

There’s a stretch of Interstate 10 in Alabama that takes you over Mobile Bay and then into a Tron-tunnel in the heart of downtown Mobile. If you’re driving through it at night and turn this track on right as the skyline starts to loom, the experience is damn near transcendent. It’s perfect music for driving in the future that Svedka commercials like to warn us about.

3. Digital Love

This is a Spring day on a future dome-world. So what if we probably have this track to thank for Hellogoodbye? Your great-great grandkids will get it when they’re dancing to that excellent guitar breakdown in a purple meadow on Mars.

2. Something About Us

The sad robot shtick wore a little thin on later albums, but “Something About Us” executes it perfectly. The character at the center sounds like he’s singing into a vocoder between long drags on a cheap cigarette and the rest of the song absolutely grooves. Sure, we’re all bummed and this probably won’t work out, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dance.

1. One More Time

It almost feels like cheating to put this as the top track. Of course it is. It’s the biggest hit off of the album and the robots themselves chose it as the first thing a listener would hear when they turned on Discovery. It’s an easy choice, but it’s also the right one.

“One More Time” takes all the criticisms leveled against Daft Punk and spins them into gold. Oh, it’s too repetitive? Well, here is an endlessly repeating song that you’ll never want to end. Even better, the lyrics about the fact that they are going to repeat themselves over and over and over. Critics will be too busy to judge if they just follow the song’s advice and “don’t stop the dancing.”

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