“What motivates me is seeing people in the crowd and wondering what they’re going home to and what they’re dealing with, and knowing that for the time being we’re their escape.” – Hayley Williams, lead singer
Where I first heard Paramore is where most fans probably heard about them. In the summer of 2007, they released their single “Misery Business,” and in a moment where Rock and Pop Punk were still viable means of making a true radio hit, it ended up taking the charts by storm, seeing significant exposure across North America and Europe.
“Misery Business,” from their second studio album, Riot!, provided an exciting flavor that was unique in the Pop Punk crowd, and though I was OBSESSED with this song, I wasn’t yet engulfed in the full range of Pop Punk aesthetic and didn’t seek out much of the genre. It wasn’t until early 2018 when I saw a copy of Riot! at a local used music shop for 1 dollar, where I couldn’t resist but to give Paramore a worthwhile try. As much as I was waiting to hear “Misery Business” in it’s full context, the rest of the album blew me away, showcasing even more ambition and talent than their single lead me to believe.
I became fascinated and immediately yearned for their remaining 4 studio albums, spanning between 2005 and 2017. In their 12 years of production, they put out an impressive amount of talent in their diverse discography, and the chemistry and attitude this band creates has sky-rocketed them into a top 5 slot for my personal “best bands EVER”.
I should add here, that due to the band maturing since 2007, they have recently announced that they would like to stop performing “Misery Business”, as it contains anti-feminist sentiments, and Hayley & Co. would like to distance themselves from their fickle, teenage attitudes. I applaud these folks for realigning their ethics after becoming developed adults, and in the grand scheme of their career, “Misery Business” only rocks half as hard as much of their music. All of their albums can be found through LFPL and I encourage everyone to listen.
All We Know Is Falling
Before we even start, let it be known that Hayley Williams was 16 years old at the time of this release. 16 YEARS OLD?! What were you doing at 16 years old? I had started my first Rock band, but in no way were we putting out records on a label that already supported kingpins of Pop Punk, such as Jimmy Eat World, Yellowcard, and Less Than Jake.
I love the simplistic approach on this album, with instrumentals that allow Hayley to showcase her adolescent story through an impressive vocal performance. This original Emo sound with its humble, vulnerable, and sharp songwriting created what some call a “scene classic”, providing a beautiful and thoughtful texture to the 2005 “scene” culture that was somewhere between the heavier likes of Hawthorne Heights and the exuberant approach brought by Motion City Soundtrack. Some call these songs tame but there is a soft spot in my heart for these teenaged, angsty lyrics and its moody production.
If you don’t know what the heck “scene” culture is, check out this Wikipedia article. Also, here is a music video from this album: Emergency. (please take note of the excessive eyeliner and swooped bangs).
The opening track, “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic,” will have you bouncing off the walls with their energetic and progressive songwriting, and a chorus that will have you screaming. Tracks like “When It Rains” will casually melt your heart with its sense of longing and reverbed guitar tones. This may seem unfounded but I think their hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, plays into this track, giving off similar vibes to the softer moments on a Dixie Chicks or early Taylor Swift record. That seems silly in this context but these musicians are versatile, owning every approach they take. Nestle this soothing sound against some powerful, electrifying, and confident Punk Rock, and you have a beautifully constructed album that is iconic for its era.
This album deserves the fame and acclaim, not just for the killer tracks, but for the confidence in their image and talent. Just look at these guys. They had the look and the chops to back it up, having a lot of fun along the way. Check out this music video from the album that exhibits some complex rhythms, swapping between 3/4, 6/4, and standard time, while adding a sweet spin to a sound that is reminiscent of 90’s Screamo/Post-Hardcore: That’s What You Get.
Brand New Eyes
With two albums under their belt, Paramore carefully built stamina, honed their craft and created a record that is full of home-runs. They still bring their youthful energy to the table, but with tighter performances, crystal-clear and punchy production, and a mature sense of self that was cultivated through their success up until this point.
While their first album was somber in its loneliness and their second album was fierce with questioning and rebellion, the narratives here are more complex, exploring themes of independence, encouraging the listener to put their self-worth above any social or personal road-blocks. Hayley Williams’ sense of pride on Brand New Eyes creates a triumphant role-model, instilling inspiration and fearlessness in the listener. Considering this was released in 2009, this record helped pave a way for feminism in both mainstream and indie music of this nature. Cultural significance aside, this is my favorite to listen to, over and over again. If you have 15 minutes to spare, tracks 7 – 9 are a perfect triad. It brings me so much joy.
At this same time, Paramore was commissioned to write a song for the first Twilight movie, ushering in a Grammy nomination and more mainstream exposure. They were on top of the world. This album has many music videos, but here is one of my favorites: Playing God.
After the release of Brand New Eyes, there were creative differences in the band, leading to the departure of both guitarist Josh Farro and drummer Zac Farro. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Williams stated that a couple of those years were “emotionally exhausting” and she felt a need to reaffirm themselves in a new chapter, hence the self-titled approach.
They recruited the drummer from Nine Inch Nails and Angels & Airwaves to perform, but despite his veteran talent I find this album to be the most under-baked in their catalog. They introduce some new influences, with more Pop, Dance, and Electronic sensibilities, that adds fun and anthemic sounds to the record, but it seems that their direction was unsure. Their influences seem to be emulated instead of adopted, misplacing their sense of identity. At times, I feel like I’m listening to The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Le Tigre, or Blondie instead of Paramore.
This album is still fun to listen to, as Williams rocks the house with some ambitious vocal performances. In context of the mainstream rock of this time, I’d still listen to this over Imagine Dragons, Muse, and Cage The Elephant. The single “Ain’t It Fun” won a Grammy that year, and that song rules, but I might try their other records first. Here is the playful video: Ain’t It Fun.
As you could probably tell from the cover art, Paramore went through some soul searching in preparation for this record. Zac Farro had made up with the band and is back on drums and Hayley Williams battled a divorce in the midst of this songwriting. These reality checks combined with a new appreciation for stylized, refined, and mature songwriting lit a fire in these musicians, eager to prove themselves.
They turn a stark 180° for this release, being influenced by 80’s Electro-Pop, Art Rock, and Dance, reminiscent of Talking Heads, Paul Simon, and Janet Jackson. This sounds strange for a band who started their career in Emo, but these efforts are so genuinely indicative of Paramore’s heart and soul, that every ounce of their talent shines through in these stunning performances. After a bumpy road filled with personal journeys, Paramore reclaims its identity with emotional songs about redefining self-worth and love, with a zen acceptance that the world doesn’t always turn the way you thought it would. With textured and tasteful soundscapes, Paramore sports a gorgeous smile on their face with this delicious breath of fresh air.
As this is their most recent album, their official website is still advertising it if you want some cool merchandise. Here is a video to Rose-Colored Boy with a heart-warming skit and a sense of humor.
Finally, here is a link to LFPL’s catalog for all things related to Paramore. Feel free to put any of these items on hold so we can ship them to the most convenient branch for you.
— Reviewed by Noah, Bon Air