One of the most hyped albums of the year is finally here, and one must wonder how Daft Punk have managed to cope with the expectation. More than ever before, the hype has been generated by the mystery surrounding their first studio album in eight years. They've always been a mysterious pair - we know them as only 'the robots': Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. One can count the number of times they've appeared in public out of costume on one hand, and the theatrics and excellent PR campaign behind Random Access Memories has threatened to overshadow the album itself. After months of speculation, Saturday Night Live teasers, a Vine video unveiling the album tracklist, and all manner of other things, it's finally here - and if you thought you knew what to expect, then you've most likely been proven wrong. This is an album featuring a surprising number of slow jams; it contains a monologue from Giorgio Moroder; the album centrepiece, 'Touch' is inspired as much by West End musicals as anything else; it runs to 74 minutes. It is also ostensibly Daft Punk - just not as we knew them.

There's an organic feel to the new material; electronic elements are far less prominent than before, with session musicians being drafted in to play almost everything on the record, bar the drum machines, synths and vocoders (all three of which are Daft Punk staples). It moves away from the house elements that characterised their earlier material, toward a funkier sound that is given a soft rock feel in places (for example, 'Within'). A lot has been made of the collaborators on the record, but the first, Julian Casablancas, doesn't appear until track five, and when he does, it just so happens that 'Instant Crush' could have slotted into The Strokes' Comedown Machine perfectly - 80s synths, effortlessly funky delivery, the works. His contribution isn't the best on offer - that would go to Panda Bear's turn on 'Doin' It Right' - but thankfully, not one feels out of place. Pharrell Williams's collaboration with the duo on huge lead single 'Get Lucky' isn't even his best work on the album; his falsetto fits perfectly on 'Lose Yourself to Dance', and the handclap-laden track is as full of infectious energy as you might expect.

There are times when the album can come off as a little cheesy, but then again, such things are hardly alien to Daft Punk, and it just so happens that this is good cheese; the strings-and-timpani opening to 'Beyond' may cause the listener to roll their eyes, but they'll be smiling as they do it, no question. In fact, there are a number daring moves on the record which will split opinion, but closer 'Contact' is worth the price of entry on its own: a dazzling, what-in-the-holy-hell-just-happened finale that raises the BPM count considerably for a breathtaking finish, the coda to an album that never quite outstays its welcome. Sure, an hour and 14 minutes is quite a commitment, but it's time well spent. With the way the promotion went into overdrive for Random Access Memories, you would think its release is an epoch-defining event. It's not - and it's not on the level of their first two albums, either - but it's a great album nonetheless, and even better if you spend time with it. It's immediate, but it's challenging; it's instant, but it's a grower; how it manages to be all these things at once is, quite frankly, beyond me, but if 2010's Tron: Legacy signalled somewhat of a comeback, then the proper follow-up to 2005's disappointing Human After All once again displays what Daft Punk can be capable of. Six weeks of work wasn't enough for their last studio offering; this one took the guts of five years, and it shows.