Paramore are back on the music scene with their brand new fifth studio album After Laughter. The trio have returned with a different line-up once again. Founding member Zac Farro is back on the drums and bassist Jeremy Davis has subsequently left the band for good and not on pleasant terms.
In March 2016, Davis filed a lawsuit against his former band mates Hayley Williams and Taylor York claiming he was “omitted from songwriting credits”. However this has now been settled privately with no details being released.
Originally a four-piece rock band formed in 2004 in good old Tennessee, the line up consisted of Hayley, brothers Josh and Zac and Jeremy. They quickly shot to fame with their undeniable awesome single “Misery Business” taken from their second studio album Riot which even got the band a Grammy nomination for ‘Best New Artist’.
The 2009 follow up album Brand New Eyes was were the band really started to find their feet as a rock band; with the addition of guitarist Taylor York, they were releasing hits left, right and centre and even reached a staggering number 2 on the Billboard 200 list!
This is still to this day the band’s second highest charting album. Next up was the self-titled album Paramore which reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 list and boasted hits such as “Still into You” and “Ain’t It Fun”. Which brings us to the present day album…
After Laughter starts strongly with the debut single for the album “Hard Times” which has a very poppy and idyllic feel to it. It begins with what appears to be a xylophone and leads in with a pounding on the drums.
“All that I want is to wake up fine”, sings Hayley, with clear frustration and raw emotion in her tone. This song has one of the catchiest choruses of the year with crowd like back up vocals provided by Zac and Taylor. You’ll be sure to be bobbing your head to this one.
“Rose-Coloured Boy” is a very experimental song, in terms of the fact that there doesn’t seem to be much guitar but instead a retro use of keyboard which exports you back to the 80’s. Williams’s vocals are particularly strong in this track and she does a great job of portraying anxiety what sounds like a case of depression.
“Just let me cry a little bit longer, I ain’t gonna smile if I don’t want to”. The lyrics give off a metaphorical middle finger to society and how we are expected to always appear happy and not talk about mental illness.
Keeping the pace with perfect 80’s pop the album continues to impress with “Told You So“. York provides slick and smooth riffs throughout, leaving the listener in a happy little daydream. However the lyrics provide a stark contrast point of view “throw me into the fire, throw me in, and pull me out again”. I got the feeling Williams was expressing her frustrations with her relationship.
Williams taps into the softer side of her vocals with “Forgiveness“, which in my opinion is one of the highlights of the album. York continues with steady paced riffs reminiscent of Talking Heads and the whole song is very laid back, and has a relaxed feel around it.
Taking a bit of a turn “Fake Happy” expresses a terribly honest view on society and how we are all to a degree ‘Fake Happy’. Paramore are back to their rocky roots with a gritty and hard-hitting chorus, however it doesn’t last long until we’re back to the catchy beat of the keyboard. Williams takes it back to “Brand New Eyes” type vocals and leaves your ears almost ringing with her intense power when singing “Oh please, I bet everyone here is fake happy too”.
Slowing it right down with “26“, the beautiful acoustic guitar is the perfect remedy for a song about a broken heart. “Man you really brought me back down.” Williams proves once again she is one of the strongest female vocalists of our day with dream-like harmonies sliding over her verses.
The highlight for me in this song has to be the beautiful and genius use of violins, which only adds to the wonder, leaving you feeling like you’ve listened to a Disney film soundtrack.
“Pool” is another successfully experimental tune and brings together the unique raindrop like synthesizers and the awesome use of the whole drum kit by Farro. The song takes on an almost electronic genre with a variety of trance like breakdowns. It has a very melancholy vibe to it, which blends well with the happy go lucky use of instruments, providing a juxtapose.
Next up is “Grudges” and rumour has it that the song is about Williams’s re-union with original band member Zac Farro. With lyrics like “aren’t we so brave to give up a fight” and “we’ll laugh till we cry, like we did when we were kids” it’s difficult to disagree with this theory. Leaving a nostalgic feeling of the almost forgotten side of Paramore, the song tells a story of ‘letting it go’ so to speak.
We continue through to the final section of the album with “Idle Worship“, which is a similar style to that of Twenty-One Pilots. Williams expresses a clear sign of anxiety and her vocals are particularly breathy and quick in this track, resembling the symptoms of a panic attack.
She perfectly captures the pressures of modern day life with lines such as “we all got problems, don’t we?” and “I’m not your superhuman”. It’s as if she is letting the listener take a peek inside her personal fears with phrases like “don’t let me let you down”, it is wonderfully relatable to anyone in a relationship where they fear of disappointing the other.
“No Friend” begins with a moggy like guitar and lots of reverb, keeping you locked inside the loop of the guitar and the fast paced high-hat hits. It is repetitive yet intriguing, unlike anything I have ever heard. We hear the bemoaning of a man over the track, clearly distressed, it is quite hard to understand what he is saying, but with the perfect use of music it is very easily to be dragged into feeling the emotions of this unknown man.
And finally we come to a close with the beautiful sounds of a grand piano with “Tell Me How“. Once again, Williams impresses with her impressive range in vocals. It feels like a perfect end to a long journey of sound. The simplicity of this song only proves the talent Paramore have of captivating their listeners and welcoming them into a musical experience like no other. It slowly fades out until all is silent.
I would highly recommend this album to anyone who is open-minded and prepared to embrace Paramore’s shift in music style. I fully acknowledge that this album differs quite drastically from it’s predecessors, but change isn’t always bad, we have to remember people grow and music tastes change.
It was clear the band were experimenting with a different sound and direction back in 2013 with the release of their self-titled album. In my opinion the album is really quite good, it is experimental and brave especially through the use of guitar and York has perfectly captured a variety of styles of playing.
Not much has changed in terms of vocals and lyrics, Williams is still to me one of the strongest female vocalists of our time. The return of Farro sits nicely and almost takes you back to the original Paramore. Overall the album has almost a Caribbean/reggae type feel to it and I predict it will be the perfect pop playlist for the summer time and festival season.
Paramore’s After Laughter is out now via Atlantic Records, purchase it on iTunes here.
Words by Georgia Hampson