A Night with Paramore on the After Laughter Tour

I have a concert bucket list. This may not be a surprise to anyone, but it’s true. Bands like Turnover, Pianos Become the Teeth and Switchfoot all made the cut and have been successfully crossed off. The band at number one? Paramore.

I’ve been unsuccessful in catching a Paramore show ever since I can remember, but I finally made it. I have now seen virtually every band I’ve ever wanted to see except for bands that are no longer active (My Chemical Romance *sigh*) and the new bands I find and become obsessed with (Off Road Minivan). I’m hoping to catch a Death Cab show later this year.

I don’t really know why I had never made it to a Paramore show. They’ve played Boston plenty of times since I’ve gotten into them but I’ve just always missed it. Usually it’s because of other shows or, if I’m being honest, because ticket prices are sky high. Well, June 20th rolled around and my schedule was free and tickets were approximately $35 (which, when Paramore is involved, is basically free). So I drove two-and-a-half hours to Gilford, New Hampshire, with lawn tickets in hand, prepared to have the best night of my life.

Soccer Mommy and Foster the People were the opening bands, but as stated above, the long drive caused me to miss Soccer Mommy and most of Foster The People’s sets. I got my ticket scanned to the sultry bass tones of “Pumped Up Kicks”. While we were waiting for Paramore to start playing, we heard through the pavilion grapevine that they were upgrading tickets for free. Instead of our lawn tickets, we ended up finding seats closer to the stage to watch Hayley and Co.’s set.

Paramore was incredible. Their concert experience is legendary, akin to fellow Fueled By Ramen acts Twenty One Pilots and Panic! at The Disco. Don’t know what that label is doing, but whatever it is, it’s right. Paramore opened with “Grudges” from their latest full length, After Laughter. It set the tone wonderfully and it was almost tear-jerking to hear Zac Farro, prodigal drummer returned home, sing the background vocal, “Why did we wait so long?” to Hayley’s reply of “To stop holding on”.

The setlist was a really great range of old and new tracks. Noticeably missing, per the usual post-2015, were any tracks from their first album All We Know Is Falling. A highlight was a re-imagined version of “crushcrushcrush”. I actually texted Kiel while they were playing it, saying they’d “After Laughter-ed” it. It had less of the punk sound and they added some 80s synths, which brought a cool new feel to what must be, at this point, an overdone track for the band to perform.

The acoustic portion housed another great set of choices. They played their BBC One cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit”, then “Misguided Ghosts” from 2009’s Brand New Eyes, and finished with “26” from the new album. It was, in a word, poignant. A lot of After Laughter’s songs are full of heavy content, and even though they disguised that aspect with energetic music, it was hard to ignore the evident pain Hayley feels when singing “Forgiveness”.

Another interesting choice was the addition of “No Friend”. This was a spoken word track on After Laughter performed by Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou. Paramore used it as both a jam session and a water break and it was basically epic.

There were several traditions that were kept. One was Zac’s performance of one of his side project songs, which is definitely worth checking out. The other was the choosing of audience members to finish “Misery Business”. These were things I’d only heard about and they were just as wonderful in real time. The band had a three song encore and ended with the lead single from After Laughter, “Hard Times”.

In short, it was the best night of my life. Completely worth the wait, but I left wondering why I hadn’t just gone for it sooner. I can’t wait until they come around again.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

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Podcast: The Best of Paramore

Last month, Paramore released what may be the best album of their career in After Laughter. This month, their breakthrough album, Riot!, turns 10 years old. Amidst all of the Paramore hubbub, we decided to break down the band’s discography on our latest podcast. Included in the discussion are Kiel and Kyle’s top 10 Paramore songs, thoughts on the bands legacy, and praise for Hayley Williams as a trailblazer in the scene. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are your favorite Paramore songs? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Paramore – Riot!

I was sitting in my first apartment at a TV tray, which served as a desk for my old, rickety laptop, when I first heard “Misery Business” over a pair of shitty $10 headphones. Although far from an audiophile’s dream scenario for such a moment, I immediately understood its importance. I can’t remember if anyone else was in the room, but I vividly remember saying aloud, “Paramore is about to be the biggest band on the planet.”

I bought Paramore’s debut album All We Know is Falling because of the recommendation attached to the shrink wrap of the CD’s jewel case. Copeland vocalist Aaron Marsh made a similar proclamation on that sticker to the one I would make two years later in my apartment, and it was enough to provoke an unexpected purchase. I ended up loving that album with its raw production and youthful energy. Even then, with all of the apparent promise attached to the band, it was hard to foresee what would come next.

You can buy Riot! on iTunes.

A decade later, I’m not 100% certain that Riot! is Paramore’s greatest achievement, but I won’t argue with anyone who feels that way. It’s undeniably one of the most explosive and important albums to come from the scene and the defining example of the sound of an era.

I drove an hour and a half from Enid, Oklahoma, to Oklahoma City on the day of Riot!’s release to purchase the CD at a Hot Topic and enjoy the album from front to back on the drive home. I remember being immediately struck by David Bendeth’s production, which had literally taken the band to a whole new level. I also remember being surprised at the diversity of sound throughout the record’s 11 tracks. “Misery Business” will forever be attached to Riot!’s success, but this album is still a goldmine of hits.

Nevertheless, it was that first single that changed everything. It was hard to go anywhere in the summer of 2007 without hearing that unforgettable opening riff or Hayley Williams’ chorus of, “Woah! I never meant to brag”. Add in an unforgettable music video, striking bright colors attached to the album’s marketing, and the unrivaled energy of the band’s live performance, and Paramore had concocted the perfect cocktail for success. Riot! would move one million copies within a year before eventually going double platinum.

Just a few months prior, Fall Out Boy had appeared to set the standard for scene bands on the big stage with the release of Infinity on High, but were suddenly rivaled in the most unexpected of ways by a band that would outlast the rest of their competition. One of the things that makes Riot! so unique a decade later is that the band has actually gotten much better since the release of its signature album. Good luck naming an active band from that era that can make the same claim.

Yet for all of the excitement surrounding Riot!’s success and, sadly, the ensuing inter-band drama that would become intertwined with Paramore’s narrative, it’s important to acknowledge the uphill battle that Paramore, and more importantly, Hayley Williams, have climbed amidst their continued success.

In a scene that has consistently been plagued with persistent sexism and misogyny, it’s difficult to look back and not grimace at some of the painful conversations surrounding Paramore in 2007. Still, Williams persevered and undoubtedly impacted the community around her in ways that are still blooming. There’s much more work to be done, but the call for elevating women’s voices in the scene continues to rise, often led by Williams herself.

Riot! is not only a hallmark album for the 2000s pop punk scene, it’s a testament to a voice that refused to be ignored. Only 18 years old at the time of the album’s release, Williams commanded our attention with confidence and drive well beyond her years.

I love Riot!. I still own and wear the t-shirt I bought along with the CD that day back in 2007 and remember my initial excitement every time I put the album on. However, I cannot express how delighted I am that it was only the beginning of what was to come – the music and the progress.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Paramore – After Laughter

“Throw me into the fire / Throw me in, pull me out again”

With that repeated refrain during the bridge of “Told You So”, Hayley Williams sums up her experience in one of the most successful rock bands of the past decade. In case the bright lights and even brighter hair colors fooled you, being a part of Paramore is no walk in the park.

The cover art of Paramore’s 2005 debut album, All We Know is Falling, depicted the (first) painful departure of bassist Jeremy Davis and reckoned with broken trust. In the decade plus that followed, amidst a meteoric rise from Warped Tour side stages to amphitheaters and top 40 radio, loss, drama and pain has plagued the band, and their music has done little to spare us the details.

You can buy After Laughter on iTunes.

Even the Grammy-award winning “Ain’t it Fun” from 2013’s self-titled album was seething with resentment while draped in “Cruel Summer” sonic attire. The band’s evolution from pop punk to pop has been a gradual one, but Williams’ open-book policy regarding inner-band strife has been ever-present.

Thus, the simmering gloom that pervades Paramore’s fifth full-length album is no surprise, given another falling out, but neither is the band’s new 80s synthpop sound. Still, After Laughter may be the band’s greatest success, which should tell you a lot about how much better they are than just about any band to come from this scene.

After Laughter is heavily inspired by [insert your favorite 80s new wave band here] and follows in the recent footsteps of [insert your favorite indie synthpop band here]. But just as Paramore rode pop punk coattails to grand success with an album like the platinum-selling Riot!, Williams’ authenticity, candidness and ability to enrapture with her delivery make Paramore so much more interesting than whatever else you’re listening to.

If the band’s first single, “Hard Times”, didn’t grab you, just wait three minutes until “Rose Colored Boy” breaks through with Zac Farro’s drum machine, Taylor York’s effect pedal-heavy guitar, and Williams’ chant of “Low key, no pressure, just hang with me and my weather”. A tortured look into the necessity of depression in the face of pain becomes a soon-to-be summer anthem.

After Laughter is filled to the brim with tongue-in-cheek saccharine hooks and bubbling synthesizers while it digs deeper and deeper at old wounds. “Forgiveness” tackles the inability to forget: “And I don’t pick up when you call / Cause your voice is a gun, every word a bullet hole”. “Pool” ditches Williams’ past attempts at love ballads by dwelling on the dark: “But why get used to something new? / Cause no one breaks my heart like you”. Even the calm, acoustic “26” questions Williams’ past notions of hope in the face of adversity: “Survival will not be the hardest part / It’s keeping all your hopes alive / When all the rest of you has died”.

Yet for all of the aforementioned doom and gloom, perhaps the darkest theme explored on After Laughter is Paramore’s most self-referential yet. For a band that has watched their fan base balloon over the past decade, Williams is quick to dismiss her role as role model. Instead, she uses songs like “Idle Worship” to reveal her own lack of direction: “If I was you, I’d run from me or rip me open / You’ll see you’re not the only one who’s hopeless”.

“No Friend” employs mewithoutYou frontman Aaron Weiss to deliver another cruel message on behalf of the band, shouting, “I’m no savior of yours, and you’re no friend of mine”. It’s the harshest truth for any young fan to accept about their hero, and it’s what sets Paramore so far beyond their peers.

No matter the circumstances, Williams always left a door or window open for something new and better to appear, even if the light began to fade as the years passed. Songs like “Part II” and “Last Hope” on the self-titled album felt like flickering candles in the wind, gripping tightly to a final source of hope. You’ll be hard pressed to find any such notion on After Laughter, and I think we’re better for it.

As someone who suffers with chronic depression, I know what it’s like to fake a smile or conjure up a confident remark just to give peace and assurance to those around me. After Laughter is a reminder that sometimes those of us who struggle need to sit in our pain for however long it takes, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

As a fan of Paramore, I’m enthralled by the honesty and ironic delivery of what may be the best album of the band’s career. As a human, I can only hope that their next album, if we’re lucky enough to get one, finds Williams in a better place. But believe me, I get it. No rush, no pressure.

“Really all I’ve got is just to stay pissed off, if it’s alright by you”

4.5/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2017: #1 The Return of Paramore

paramore-2016

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been nearly four years since the release of Paramore. That album, and the singles it produced, had a long tail, with “Ain’t it Fun” blasting through radio speakers for almost two years after its release. Even now, well over a year removed from any sort of touring, Paramore still feels like one of the most relevant bands in the rock scene.

Nevertheless, as with almost any break between Paramore albums, the past couple of years have brought their wear and tear. Gone is bassist Jeremy Davis in a messy divorce that spilled into the courtrooms. Another painful departure is certain to have provided fodder for Hayley Williams and Taylor York, who, nearly inconceivably, rejoined with original drummer Zac Farro to record the band’s follow up.

Paramore has overcome adversity in the past with flying colors, continuing to up the ante with each release the band puts out. At this point, though, Paramore has become more of a brand than anything. Still, it’s a brand we trust to create emotive artwork that spills through our speakers with the sounds of Williams’ heralded voice. No matter who follows her into battle, it’s easy to rest assured of the outcome.

The last time we waited for four years for a Paramore release, the band followed up Brand New Eyes with their self-titled album – a behemoth of a record that garnered the band another platinum plaque. Here’s to the anticipation of what we believe will be yet another stellar album from one of America’s most fun bands.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Paramore – All We Know is Falling

paramore_2005

During 2015, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

Lights are out, amps are humming, and the air is thick with anticipation. Charging onto the stage, a spirited red head grabs the mic and belts with more vigor than her size suggests, “We. Are. Paramore!”

Back before this trio became the worldwide phenomenon we know today, Paramore were like most opening bands – desperate for a chance to share their songs and make their mark. The wild and astonishing ride we’ve seen unfold over the past decade all began with All We Know is Falling – the band’s striking debut album.

all_we_know

You can purchase All We Know is Falling on iTunes.

Released to little fanfare by Fueled by Ramen, All We Know is Falling relied heavily on organic word of mouth buzz. All in their mid to late teens at the time of the album’s release, singer Hayley Williams, guitarists Josh Farro and Jason Bynum, and drummer Zac Farro appeared as mild mannered kids, yet their music and live performance spoke otherwise. Paramore earned their stripes early through relentless touring, getting in front of as many eyes and ears as possible.

It’s not at all surprising that people took notice. Even 10 years later, All We Know is Falling is packed with infectious songs. Emulating the emo pop vibe of its era, the album is full of youthful spunk and emotion, highlighted by Williams’ stunning vocal performance and the powerful drumming of young Zac Farro. The two shine brightly on turbulent opener “All We Know” as Williams belts the massive, anguished chorus of, “All we know is falling, it falls / Remember, because I know that we won’t forget at all”.

Years before the band would suffer significant inter-band turmoil and the painful departure of the Farro brothers, Williams and company were already wrestling with the loss of bassist Jeremy Davis. Although Davis would return to the lineup before the end of the album cycle, his disappearance served as fodder for much of the band’s debut. Nevertheless, All We Know isn’t angry as much as it is searching for answers.

Even though the album would garner most of its attention due to excellent singles “Pressure” and “Emergency”, there’s very little filler to be found. “Here We Go Again” finds the band testing the waters of what would become their energetic follow up of Riot!, while “My Heart” is an emotive closer that became a fan favorite at live shows.

“Conspiracy and “Never Let This Go” are slow burns that pay off thanks to incredible songwriting, along with direction from producer James Paul Wisner. When Williams begins the latter with the line of “Maybe if my heart stops beating, it won’t hurt this much”, her pained vocals wash away any possible feelings of triteness, especially after the band crashes into the explosive chorus.

Most of the tracks on the album sound on the brink of something bigger, even as you’re gladly singing along. It’s easy to look back and see a young band on the edge of forthcoming radio dominance. Perhaps what’s most telling is how well the album has held up, even after Paramore’s massive success and rapid growth as a hit making machine. There’s something timeless about this early work, even if the band members were only in their infancy as professional songwriters.

Maybe what makes All We Know is Falling so appealing after all these years is the stories it holds. We got our first glimpse into Williams’ painful inner-wrestling with the concept of love in light of her parents’ divorce on “Emergency” as she sings, “I’ve seen love die way too many times when it deserved to be alive / I’ve seen you cry way too many times when you deserved to be alive”.

On “Franklin”, the band reflects on their changing hometown after leaving for a life on the road. I was struck with a surprising ache when hearing the song performed live during the band’s recent Writing the Future tour. Originally a duet between Williams and Josh Farro, the song’s gentle final lines now feel haunting a decade later when sung between Williams and guitarist Taylor York: “Could you remind me of a time when we were so alive / Do you remember that? / Do you remember that?”

All We Know is Falling is much more than a simple debut – it’s a time capsule that reminds us of Paramore’s beginnings and the crazy journey that followed. The album isn’t as instantly catchy as Riot!, as visceral as Brand New Eyes, or as diverse as Paramore. It is, however, its own, unique entity, full of life and rhythm. As much as I love everything Paramore has become, All We Know is Falling will always be a favorite of mine and a constant reminder of the pain and joy of being alive.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Paramore and Copeland Write the Future Together

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I bought Paramore’s debut album at the recommendation of Aaron Marsh. A quote from the Copeland vocalist was featured on the front of All We Know is Falling, championing the band as the next big thing. That’s all the endorsement I needed, and it turned out to be one of the best purchases I ever made.

The careers of the two aforementioned bands are intertwined much further than just that sticker, though. Paramore played their first show as openers for Copeland in 2004, during a tour stop near Nashville. Paramore singer Hayley Williams has long sung Copeland’s praises, even after her band vaulted theirs in popularity.

It’s fitting that Paramore would invite Copeland on the road as the openers for “Writing the Future”, a collection of intimate dates in which the band says goodbye to their self-titled album cycle and moves on to whatever lies ahead. Seeing these two bands grace the stage together in 2015 serves as a reminder of the powerful bonds this scene has created and fostered.

***

It was just over a year ago that Copeland announced their unlikely return. After a four year absence, the Lakeland, Florida, indie rock act returned with a new album, Ixora. That release captured everything beautiful about the band’s past, while still forging ahead sonically. For a band that never received the widespread acclaim that it likely deserved, this resurgence feels wonderfully appropriate.

Things have truly come full circle as they set the table for Paramore during “Writing the Future.” Copeland takes the stage in Louisville, Kentucky, opening with three tracks from Ixora before turning back the clock. Marsh mentions from the stage that these shows are about celebrating the past before playing “Coffee”, a fan favorite from Beneath Medicine Tree. The band also takes the time to perform other classics like “When Paula Sparks”, “Brightest” and “Sleep”.

What’s impressive is how solid the band sounds – Marsh’s vocals are better than ever as he effortlessly pulls out his falsetto during “The Grey Man”. Copeland has long been respected for their ability to blend emo and pop sounds into a pleasant presentation that never sounds over the top. Marsh spends much of his night at the keyboard, but still takes the time to sling a guitar over his shoulder for an extra punch on tracks like “You Have My Attention”.

It’s likely that many of Paramore’s newer fans have no memory of Copeland’s heyday and are just now hearing the band for the first time. Just as Marsh once vouched for the young band of high schoolers from Franklin, Tennessee, Paramore is now able to give back to a band that gave them a shot over a decade ago.

***

Ever since their earliest days, Paramore has been known for their wild and lively performances, thanks in part to the energy of Williams. Somehow, the passing of time has only served the raise the bar for the band’s live shows, as this current incarnation of Paramore is as tight as ever.

Not only is Williams just as bouncy and energetic on stage as she has ever been, her vocal performances are through the roof. When she takes liberties with the melody, it’s not out of necessity, but instead out of welcome spontaneity and energy. Guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis sound as professional as ever, coupling with a few backing musicians to create a full sound that more than does justice to the band’s recording.

The addition of Aaron Gillespie behind the drum kit now feels as natural as ever. The former Underoath drummer powerfully drives the songs ahead, adding fills at just the right moments to keep things lively. Songs like the epic rocker “Part II” sound even more compelling than the actual recordings thanks to Gillespie’s drive behind the skins.

If “Writing the Future” is a goodbye to the Paramore album cycle, it’s also a chance for the band to play some fan favorites that have never been performed live before. Their performance of my personal favorite song, “Miracle” from Riot!, incites an explosive reaction from the crowd. Likewise, forgotten Twilight stowaway “I Caught Myself” and an acoustic performance of “Misguided Ghosts” give fans the chance to hear a few forgotten favorites.

Whether Paramore is thrashing through a rendition of “Never Let this Go” from their debut or slowing down for recent single “Hate to See Your Heart Break”, every performance feels authentic. Paramore has evolved from emo pop darlings into a pop rock powerhouse without ever losing sight of who they are or tossing their fan base to the wayside.

Even though “Ain’t It Fun” served as last year’s song of the summer, the crowd still explodes for “Misery Business”, Paramore’s breakthrough single from 2007. This isn’t a fly-by-night audience – it’s a group of longtime fans who love the band’s old standards just as much as their newfound radio hits. You get the feeling they’re on board for wherever Paramore’s journey takes them.

***

“Writing the Future” is just as much about saying goodbye to the past as it is embracing what comes next. Paramore is set to begin writing their fifth full-length album sometime later this year with a possible 2016 release. Somehow, they’ve weathered the storm of passing trends that swept many of their early peers away. They’ve remained relevant by pushing boundaries and refusing to apologize for who they are, regardless of the bumps in the road.

Regardless of what comes next, it seems almost pre-destined that Paramore will deliver. Hard work, coupled with an immense amount of songwriting talent has taken the band a long way, but it still feels like there’s plenty of room left to grow. After all, they’re still young and still full of fight. At this point, it’s harder and harder to imagine a world without them.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Ain’t It Fun: The Career Arc of Paramore

paramore2

In case you haven’t noticed, Paramore is still going strong. Their self-titled album, released this April, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and their smash single “Still Into You” is still lighting up the pop airwaves. Even aside from its commercial success, Paramore stands as the band’s best work to date and is a testament to the band’s ability to rise from what appeared to be ashes.

The internal struggles and fallout within the band’s members has been well documented and needs no further investigation. However, it is a part of the story and is certainly an integral part in shaping this current unit – one that has one of the largest global followings imaginable for a rock band in the aughts and one that has pushed itself far beyond what most knew they were capable of.

In the midst of a North American headlining tour supporting the strongest album of their career, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on the band’s work and discuss the future of Paramore.

All We Know is Falling

all_we_knowFrom the moment a young Hayley Williams belted out the chorus to the album’s opening track, “All We Know”, it was clear that this band was headed for great things. In this scene, “great things” usually means a shot at radio play, a semi-successful music video and a headlining tour or two. Paramore had bigger things in mind.

There’s no denying how young the band sounds on this album. It’s a tad raw and a bit disjointed at times, but even through the cracks you can see something sincere shining through. There’s a certain level of innocence to this album, even if the lyrics to songs like “Emergency” and “Pressure” allude to a hidden pain and experience. Williams and guitarist Josh Farro penned several of the songs together and Farro’s backup vocals add an appropriate unrefined touch.

Truth be told, even with the rawness of the production and songwriting, the songs come together to form an album that many bands several albums into their career would strive for. Williams’ melodies flow effortlessly, backed by an almost-emo soundscape, creating a worthy debut for the Franklin, Tenn. act.

Riot!

riotIt’s easy to tell why this was the band’s breakthrough album. Remember the first time you heard the opening moments of “Misery Business” and immediately knew that this band was no longer your little secret? From front to back, Riot! screams for attention and is loaded with crossover potential. Paramore didn’t just avoid the sophomore slump, the eviscerated the idea of it.

The beautiful thing is that even though many of the songs are clearly created with an intent to be a hit, there’s no smacking of phony or forced creation. These songs sound polished without sounding fake and feel honest without feeling strained. Try not to sing along to “Crushcrushcrush” or “That’s What You Get” without feeling even the slightest bit snobbish. There’s something relatable and innately fun about these songs. And that’s perfectly okay.

Riot! would end up going platinum, becoming the hallmark release for the band and the album that pushed them from hometown kids to global phenoms. Yet even amidst the success, the inner workings of the band were suffering. However, instead of succumbing to the frustrations that sought to tear the band apart, Williams used them as fuel to create the band’s most frank and candid record.

Brand New Eyes

Brand_New_EyesComing off of the heels of a successful addition to the ballyhooed Twilight soundtrack, the band’s next release took a stark turn from the poppy sunshine of Riot!. Even without any back story, Brand New Eyes is so clearly about the band’s troubles, namely the divide between Williams and Josh Farro, that it can be painful to listen to.

That’s not to say that the album is bad – it certainly isn’t. If anything, it showcases a welcome maturity in songwriting and saved the band from becoming a broken record. The anger in Williams’ voice when she sings “Ignorance” and “Careful” is sharp and to the point, seemingly vanishing her former peppy and bright-eyed image.

Amidst the frustration, this is a band struggling to come to terms with success, relational discord and growing up, all while just hitting their early 20s. Yet even while venting her annoyance, Williams still takes time to speak with a clear head, singing of the band on “Looking Up”, “It’s not a dream anymore / It’s worth fighting for”.

Unfortunately, the damage was already done. Even after positive reviews and another wildly successful single in “The Only Exception”, the album proved to be a breaking point of sorts. Just over a year after the release, Josh and Zach Farro parted ways with the band in an ugly divorce that went public and threatened to tarnish the image of everyone involved. Within the disarray, Williams and company were able to regroup and create a masterpiece.

Paramore

paramore_coverWith Taylor York officially joining Williams and bassist Jeremy Davis as the official core members of the band, they proceeded to take their time creating the follow-up to Brand New Eyes. It was certainly worth the wait. Without the help of the Farro brothers, Paramore was able to write an album that surpassed their past work in composition, maturity, power and accessibility.

Paramore is a rock record. To try to pigeon-hole it further would be fruitless, as the album features a number of styles and genres amidst its songs that combine to make a much greater and far less easily pegged whole. Amazingly, even with the plethora of styles and sounds flowing through each track, the album never feels disjointed and every song has its own place. The wonderfully written interludes serve as an even stronger glue, holding the story together.

Speaking of interludes, the tongue-in-cheek “I’m Not Angry Anymore” is a barometer of sorts for the band. Williams surely isn’t angry in the way that made Brand New Eyes come across so bitterly, but she’s using her emotions to propel her forward towards something much more hopeful, even if she has to battle cynicism along the way.

Aside from the lyrical content, the music itself is a long shot from the early pop-punk/emo days of the band. “Ain’t it Fun” is a bouncy modern rock song that benefits from a monstrous chorus and backing choir vocals to push it over the top. “Daydreaming” is a power pop ballad with an aggressive touch while “Hate to See Your Heart Break” is a slow-tempo daydream of a song.

With Paramore, the band has cemented itself in a musical landscape far beyond the what many bands in this scene are capable of and set themselves up for a career that could last as long as they’re willing to take it. It seems clear that the band is the healthiest it’s ever been and has no plans of stopping.

Where will the future take them? Williams has proven herself as not only a pop icon, but someone with the creative willpower and vocal chops to keep herself relevant and at the forefront. Assuming that her solo ventures don’t distract too much from Paramore the brand, the group has a great chance of remaining near the top of the charts for years to come.

-by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his imaginary pet, Hand Dog.  You can follow him on Twitter.