Earlier this week, Alternative Press released a list of this year’s ten essential albums. Paramore’s self-titled effort was among the select few (number 2, in fact) and I couldn’t agree more. Though the album was released in April, I didn’t get a chance to review it, mostly because I’ve been rocking to it nonstop. So, to commemorate a well-deserved spot on a list dedicated to all things rock, I thought I’d finally give my take on my personal favorite album of 2013. Here’s my review of Paramore.
I consider this album as a debut because the album itself is the re-emergence of Paramore. Anyone who’s a fan knows of the extensive troubles that plagued the band while on their way to recording their fourth studio album. Founding members Josh and Zac Farro departed the band, citing an extreme distaste over the band’s lyrical direction. I find this very ironic because with this album, current members Hayley Williams, Jeremy Davis, and Taylor York have found their artistic stride, reaching new lyrical and musical heights that soars above and beyond anything they’ve done in the past.
“Fast In My Car,” the album’s opening track, shows that the band is already off to a great start. It’s fun, raw, and the perfect thing to blast while driving down the highway. Next up is “Now,” a deeply personal track that highlights the anguish and near death of the band. The lyrical content is hard to ignore: There’s a time and a place to die/And this ain’t it. The words are even more powerful when paired with Hayley’s extraordinary vocal range in which she screams into a deep and dark abyss. The mood lightens up with “Grow Up,” a catchy tune that’s dance-worthy, followed by “Daydreaming,” an uplifting track heightened by grandiose riffs that harken back to 90’s dream pop. Then we have a surprising interlude titled “Moving On.” This isn’t just filler. In fact, the album is punctuated with a few of these interludes featuring Hayley and an upbeat ukulele. The lyrics are noteworthy here as well: Well I could be angry/But you’re not worth the fight/And besides I’m moving on. Similar to the second track, “Now,” the band isn’t aiming at anyone in particular, nor is there a sense of bitterness to the words. Indeed Paramore has gone through some tough times but they never let the pain define them. Instead, they move past it and continue to look forward – a confidence that runs through the entire album.
With these first five tracks, Paramore already showcases a variety in sound that makes the album infinitely re-playable. They vary through moods and styles that they’ve touched on before and have expanded them quite beautifully. Imagine my surprise when I heard “Ain’t It Fun,” a five-minute track that’s unlike anything they’ve ever attempted. Davis and York play with an undeniably funky swagger, while Hayley sings with enough soul to get you up and singing. She’s even accompanied by a choir that encourages you to get with the groove. “Part II” is a sequel to the fan-favorite “Let The Flames Begin.” Played with a faster rhythm, the song brims with a new-wave intensity but never seeks to outshine its predecessor nor make it sound redundant. Both songs can co-exist. “Last Hope” is played in the same vein as “Daydreaming,” and even feels like an arena ballad that you can hold a lighter up to (or phone, whatever people do nowadays). Then there’s “Still Into You,” a sugary sweet track that marks another welcome change in the band’s style. This song has probably found its way into your heart by now. And why not? It’s catchy as hell! And baby even on our worst nights/I’m into you. Yes, this is a love song, but it’s not sappy. It’s a bold statement fused with a pop-rock vibe that is sure to stay in your mind for some time. “Anklebiters” takes the mantle from here and keeps the upbeat rhythm alive with swinging guitar lines and a dancy back beat. It almost sounds like a cousin to “Fast In My Car.”
“Proof” and “Be Alone” are wonderful counterparts stylistically. They’re sure to please die-hard fans with heavy guitar riffs and some head-banging choruses that serve up a rush of vintage Paramore. Then we have “Hate To See Your Heart Break.” This is Paramore at their most melancholy. The string arrangement alone is beautiful, but it’s Hayley’s gentle voice that elevates this track into a lovely ballad that echoes sentiment and reflection. This song charmed the hell out of me. It even caught my mom’s attention. On occasion, I can still hear her humming the melody. It’s that good. This song shows a restraint that we haven’t heard since “The Only Exception,” though it’s more nuanced in the vein of “My Heart.” This is the kind of song that’s very risky in terms of sound, but it’s also emotionally rewarding for those looking for a thoughtful tune. “(One of Those) Crazy Girls” kicks things back into overdrive, boasting kick-ass riffs and easygoing verses that reflect its own romantic giddiness. Hayley even sports a Gwen Stefani-like attitude throughout the track, which is also an apt summation of her charisma in the entire album. That’s not to say she’s mimicking. She’s taking risks that are worthy of the band’s unflinching ambition. That brings us to “Future,” an ambitious eight-minute closing track that capitalizes on emotion and raw power. Hayley opens the track with emotionally-charged lyrics that pave the way for the unknown: I’m writing the future/We don’t talk about the past. In comes York and Davis, pedaling through four minutes of crashing cymbals and screeching guitars. This song not only lays the foundation for the new and confident sound they’ve established, but also sets the bar for themselves in the future, hence the name.
I’ve been a fan of them since middle school and I have loved every album. However, I must say that this 17-song set, 64-minute monster is their best offering by far. They’ve shown a dynamic range and diversity that most bands would shy away from in fear of losing their fans. Unlike most bands, Paramore has been through a lot of shit. This has left them virtually unafraid to take risks, and I believe it paid off. I can’t even single out any one of these tracks. I have to listen to all of them or else the experience feels incomplete. That’s what they’ve crafted here: a unique listening experience that varies across moods, styles, and sound. This is still Paramore, only better. Now, they may be number 2 on the list, but they’re number 1 in my books. This is their year, and I can’t think of another band that deserves this more. Cheers to you, Paramore.