When people think of Paramore, they’ll probably associate with them in one of two ways, the emo punk-rock band who made a name for themselves in the early 2000’s with their alternative, Warped Tour vibes, or as the pop-rock band with super catchy hooks and cheerful sound. Needless to say, this Tennessee originated band has something distinct about them, which is probably why they remain a powerhouse in music and pop culture to this day.
Like many teens do, I totally fell into an alternative phase. With bands like Green Day, Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park and Paramore, just to name a few, my junior high days were surrounded by overly skinny jeans, black vans, chipped black nail polish, and black and white checker print on just about everything you can think of. This was also around the time that I started to really express myself musically. I was learning the guitar, singing and also doing musical theatre. All that being said, Paramore was my first real fan-girl experience.
After Laughter, being the band’s first true pop-rock album, was released on May 12, 2017. Paramore went in a completely new direction with this album. And while I was a little bit caught off guard and unsure how to take it in at first, I knew I would fall in love with it one way or another. After all, I have only been obsessed with this band since 2007.
Every band goes through it’s struggles. Often times, it ends ugly or bad rather than good. In this case, Paramore fans got lucky. The band was on the verge of a collapse in 2016 with Hayley Williams, who has been the group’s main front runner since the beginning, ready to bow out. This album was fought hard for and ultimately kept the three bandmates holding on and sticking together, hence the opening track title “Hard Times”.
Staying true to form, William’s wears her heart on her sleeve with her extremely vulnerable lyrics. In an interview with the New York Times, she even says, “I couldn’t imagine putting something on an album that says ‘life’s great, everything’s cool, party with me.'” She’s been the band’s main songwriter, while struggling with depression, pain, and a recent divorce; with track names like, “Fake Happy”, “Grudges” and “No Friend”, it is easy to identify the common themes in this album.
Sticking to their emo roots, the lyrics during this entire album hardly coincide with its mostly upbeat instrumentation. Some people might have an issue with that combination, but I feel the music and lyric pairings are insanely unique and in some way relatable. In fact, I usually don’t find myself drawn to lyrics of a song at first, the music is usually what catches my attention. And while that was still the case for this album, I found myself more attracted to the lyrics than usual.
The first five songs of the record stay at an upbeat pace until about halfway through with the song “26”. The music takes to an acoustic arrangement with guitar, some subtle violin playing, and William’s vocal range staying in a lower register, with the exception of a couple higher end notes and occasional “oo’s” and “aah’s”. Some of lyrics that stick out to me in this song are, “Hold onto hope if you’ve got it” and “They say that dreamin’ is free, but I wouldn’t care what it costs me.”
Following “26” are two more fast paced, head-bopping and feet tapping jams, “Pool” and “Grudges”. Coming to the final four songs of the album, “Caught In the Middle” and “Idle Worship” are the closest sounding songs to the emo-rock Paramore we all know and love, making it two of my favorites on the album – go figure. It still has that different sound to it that makes it unique to this particular record, but they stick out to me because of the familiar tone.
The album ends with the soft piano led “Tell Me How”. I personally love that they choose to end the album with this song. Williams really pours her out with these lyrics, but it’s what she is so great at, putting all of her pain and anger into words that I’m sure very many people can relate with. And the fact that her voice sounds impeccable on just about everything she sings doesn’t hurt either.
What I appreciate most about this album was Paramore’s choice to change up their sound and re-brand themselves. By never doing something in this lane before, I’m sure it was scary for the group, not being sure of how fans and critics were going to react to this sort of bubbly sounding, pop-rock record. Well, it’s been 7 months since the release of After Laughter, and it’s on just about all of the major ‘Best of 2017’ lists, and also nominated for a Grammy. So I think it’s safe to say it was received well.
This album combines loud and clear drums, guitar that goes hard and adds an 80’s fizziness to it all; that just does something for me, which is why I choose to write about this album. It’s different and I haven’t heard anything like it. Being only 12 songs and 43 minutes in length, this is album is a very easy listen. So if you haven’t already, make sure you check it out.
Favorite tracks: “Fake Happy”, “26”, “Pool”, “Caught In The Middle”
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Ellie currently lives in Costa Mesa, California. Her favorite things are overly large cups of coffee, good tunes, great flicks, and laughing hard.