Music Mondays (5-22-17): Paramore, “After Laughter” Review

This is Music Mondays, a weekly music column. This week, it’s a new album review!

Paramore, “After Laughter” Review

Broken friendships. The constant pressure of fame. Growing up. Lost love. It’s enough to take away your happiness, and Hayley Williams can attest to this on Paramore’s fifth studio album “After Laughter”.

At its surface, Paramore’s newest record boasts a colorful ‘80s pop sound with groovy bass lines, disco-esque tempo, and, of course, lead singer Hayley Williams’ energetic vocals. All of these words may sound weird to describe a Paramore record, but that’s the point. Evolving from their previous self-titled record, Paramore has completely shed their pop-punk roots, and it’s undoubtedly for the best.

Despite their danceable new sound, after listening a bit closer to “After Laughter”, it’s pretty easy to notice that everything isn’t as fun as it seems. “I want you to stop insisting that I’m not a lost cause, because I’ve been through a lot,” Williams sings on the upbeat “Rose-Colored Boy”.

As she says, Williams has been through a lot, and that much is clear on “After Laughter”. Despite the problems she describes on the record, the album rarely slips into the melodramatic. So, while these lyrics may still have the edginess that Paramore is known for, the band has clearly matured.

They are all the better for it too because “After Laughter” is Paramore’s best record to date and is one of the best pop records of 2017 thus far.

Songs like the aforementioned “Rose-Colored Boy”, the groovy “Told You So”, the awesome ska-influenced “Caught in the Middle”, and the fantastic album opener “Hard Times” are all great  pop songs with fun hooks, instrumentation, and strong bass lines.

Not only is “After Laughter” great musically, but the subject matter is worth recommending too. Williams sings about faking her happiness on, well, “Fake Happy”, wanting to feel sad on “Rose-Colored Boy”, and dealing with the people who look up to her on “Idle Worship”.

While the lyrics are often undeniably sad (“I can’t think of who I was because it just makes me want to cry” on “Caught in the Middle”), the album still remains optimistic in some way, whether it’s through the upbeat sound, Williams’ determination, or the fact that she describes getting through these “Hard Times” on the opening track.

The second half of “After Laughter” isn’t nearly as strong as its first. After the deceptively upbeat “Fake Happy”, the album slows down for the acoustic ballad “26”. While it certainly isn’t bad (and Williams sounds eerily similar to The Civil Wars’ vocalist Joy Williams in a good way), this song doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album’s aesthetic. The same can be said for the hurricane-of-sound that is “No Friend”. Ignoring “Caught in the Middle”, the second half runs out of ideas and doesn’t introduce any new ‘80s pop sounds after “26”.

Regardless of these critiques, I love Paramore’s “After Laughter”. It excels in both its sound and lyrics, and that cannot often be said about a pop album. Paramore truly surprised me with their new ‘80s pop sound and more mature subject matter. I wholeheartedly recommend this record, and I cannot wait to see what’s next for the band (which is something I don’t think I have ever said about Paramore).

 

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