In many ways, Paramore is pretty representative of “New Nashville.”
The group isn’t country, the members dress as many East Nashvillians do and they managed to break through the so-called “Nashville Curse” by becoming the first local rock band to sell more than a million copies with its sophomore album, Riot!. The breakthrough album secured Paramore’s place in local music lore by doing things their own way.
The band, still led by Hayley Williams despite numerous member switch ups over the last several years, is still keeping things fresh on its latest release, After Laughter. It would have been so easy for Paramore to rest on what they’ve done in the past: releasing yet another pop-punky, heavily distorted album filled with the kind of feels that drive high schoolers crazy; the sound that has drove the group to the top of the charts, dominating music festivals like the Warped Tour along the way. But that is not the case at all on this new album.
The first thing that I noticed – just because of how striking it is – is how different this album sounds. It is so stripped down, not in a classical singer-songwriter indie kind of way, but the heavily distorted guitar riffs are gone, replaced by a more dance friendly vibe.
The album, which was released May 12, opens with an almost tropical beat on the track “Hard Times,” which sets the tone for both the lyrical content and the sound.
Content wise, Paramore has always been a bit of a cynical band, befitting of its emo roots, but the emotions on this album that come through feel a lot more raw.
It’s very easy to listen to this and realize just how tired Williams is of pretending that everything is just fine – something I think a lot of people can relate to.
I mean, the first words you hear her sing are “All that I want/ Is to to wake up fine/ Tell me I’m alright/and I ain’t gonna die.”
It’s definitely a sentiment that I can relate to, and the part of about needing constant reassurance that I’m not going to die every day certainly resonates what with all that’s happening in the world these days.
There’s parts where you really begin to get a glimpse of what’s going on in Williams’ mind, notably on a couple of tracks in the middle of the album, including the song “Fake Happy.”
Yes, the track is pretty on the nose, but Paramore hasn’t exactly been known for its deep and subtle lyrics, so I think they get a little bit of wiggle room in that category.
“Fake Happy” deals with just dropping your mask for a little bit, and maybe, if everyone did the same thing, we’d all realize that everyone has their own stuff they are going through, but we march on.
It will be interesting to see how the group’s longtime fans view this album, since it is such a stark departure from the group’s normal sound.
I like it.
I’ve always been a fan of when bands take risks or make an effort to try something different, and that extends to Paramore as well.
If you liked the band's old stuff and are kind of on the fence about this one, give it a couple of listens before you make up your mind.
For everyone else that still thinks of Paramore as being the personification of emo-pop-rock, give it a shot. You might be surprised at how the group has grown.
Cover photo: Lindsey Byrnes/Facebook.
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